European leaders reached a deal on migration on Friday after tense and lengthy talks, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded differences remained.
Under the agreement, reached after nine hours of often stormy talks, EU leaders agreed to share out refugees arriving in the bloc on a voluntary basis and create “controlled centres” inside the European Union to process asylum requests.
They also agreed to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, a key demand of Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
‘We still have a lot of work to do to’
Merkel said she was “optimistic” that the EU could continue working toward solving irregular migration after it had sent a “good signal” in agreeing on a common position. “We still have a lot of work to do to bridge the different views,” she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron said, “It is European cooperation that has won the day.” He added that “Europe will have to live with migratory pressures for a long time. We must succeed in standing up to this challenge whilst being true to our values.”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, “We have long been calling for these protection areas, safe zones, landing centres, however one wants to call them, outside of Europe ― this idea has now prevailed.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said “Europe is going step by step” in tackling migration challenges and that the agreement was “necessary.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said “Italy is no longer alone” in the fight against irregular migration from North Africa and the Middle East.
Merkel’s fight: German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has threatened to use his ministerial powers to order border police to reject asylum-seekers, who have been registered elsewhere in the EU, from entering Germany. Merkel and her Christian Democratic Party (CDU) have dismissed the idea in favour of an EU solution. Seehofer and his Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU’s sister-party, had agreed to wait and see whether Merkel and her EU counterparts could produce an “acceptable” solution in Brussels.