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EU leaders to discuss solutions to mass deaths in the Med today

Most media report on today’s emergency European Summit following the capsizing of a boat and the death of some 800 migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. European leaders will exchange on “the destabilisation of neighbouring countries south of Europe and the tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea caused by the chaos in Libya.” They will try to come up with solutions to prevent the migrant tragedy from worsening in the Mediterranean – many media outlets such as the FT consider it is now one of the most serious challenges facing the bloc.

EU leaders are expected to work on Italy’s ten-point action plan and first increase, if not double, the budget and forces of Operation Triton. Rai Uno quotes EC President Jean-Claude Juncker saying that saving lives is the top priority, and reports that David Cameron apologised for having secured the interruption of Mare Nostrum, along with other governments. However, Triton will remain a border control operation without the humanitarian dimension Operation Mare Nostrum had, some deplore.

In an interview with The Guardian, Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri, explained that saving migrants’ lives in the Mediterranean should not be the priority for the maritime patrols he is in charge of. In the Independent, Andreas Whittam Smith argues that there is a strong moral case for resuming an effective search-and-rescue operation in the Mediterranean, and any hesitation in taking resolute action to prevent the loss of life would add to doubts about the EU being a force for good.

Many media also report that possible military missions in Libya will be discussed. Politiken quotes Italian defence minister Roberta Pinotti saying yesterday that the plans for such a move are ready, and Italy is prepared to lead an EU operation if it is backed by the UN. ABC adds that Spain and Greece are also pushing for the use of military force against boats used by human traffickers. Belgium and Norway have also reportedly endorsed the plan. However, Les Echos notes that it could take time, as a UN mandate and the agreement of Tripoli are required.

Another point on the agenda is the way the immigrants are treated when they arrive in the EU, writes Information. Officially, the Common European Asylum System is supposed to ensure that all are treated equally, but according to Kris Pollet, a senior legal officer in the ECRE network, it has become clear that a joint system with joint standards does not exist. Aamulehti mentions that the solution could be a humanitarian visa, which would allow a person to travel safely to an EU country and apply for asylum. François Gemenne, from the Politics Institute of Paris, actually believes that “the current problem is the absence of a single asylum and immigration policy in Europe” (Público). European policies currently do not provide for any legal ways to enter Europe, therefore visas could represent an evolution for European immigration policy.

Wolfgang Bauer says on RBB that the only way to prevent refugees from getting on the boats is to open legal paths to immigrate to Europe. Klaus Zimmermann suggests in Handelsblatt that Europe could offer bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries in order to allow temporary and circular work migration. Les Echos reports that European Council President Donald Tusk hopes for more solidarity in the distribution of refugees between EU member states, but that it is unlikely that the latter will accept reshaping their migration policies.

Les Echos also reports that yesterday, Turkish President Erdogan accused Europe of “letting migrants die” while Italian PM Matteo Renzi called his partners to unite against “modern-day slavers.” Il Sole 24 Ore argues that the objectives of the EU summit on immigration are “ambitious,” and adds that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s “capacity for leadership” in Europe and Italy is at stake over the immigration emergency.

In La Repubblica, Andrea Bonanni claims that Matteo Renzi will have a “difficult job” at getting Europe to “shift up a gear” in its response to the immigration emergency and the people-smuggling racket. Indeed, the newspaper notes that the draft final communiqué does not show “significant progress” on several “crucial questions,” especially search and rescue operations.

De Standaard’s Bart Sturtewagen comments that migration is the policy where European values and political powerlessness conflict the most. In other more general comments, Svenska Dagbladet argues that the EU has “built Fortress Europe,” and that the ten-point plan presented by the EU on Monday continues this failed approach. It argues that treating migrants like criminals is not only morally void, but it is also not working.

Austrian writer Robert Menasse argues in Die Presse that the competence for asylum and migration policy and the responsibility for European laws must be withdrawn from nation states and handed over to the European Commission and European Parliament. L’Humanité‘s editorialist Maurice Ulrich says that developed countries, which have “played with people” to protect their strategic interests, have to assume their share of responsibility for the current conflicts, and Europe must make the “humane choice of justice over continental market selfishness.”

Several media outlets including Naftemporiki and Libération.fr report that Amnesty International published a report entitled “Europe’s sinking shame,” calling on the EU to take specific measures and immediately start an international humanitarian operation.

©europeanunion2015

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