"The heads of state and government of the European Union are introducing a paradigm shift in migration policy. At the EU summit on Thursday, the following tendencies emerged: refugees will in future be intercepted in the Mediterranean and returned to North Africa in landing centers. The protection of the external borders is strengthened. The question of refugee distribution remains open.
EU Council President Donald Tusk defended the planned tightening of European migration policy: "If we do not agree, we see some really tough proposals from really tough guys." The alternative to increased EU external border management and refugee centers would be "chaotic border closures" within the EU, Tusk said before the European Council in Brussels.
Turnaround in refugee policy
"I believe that today it is possible to initiate a turnaround in refugee and migration policy," said Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP). An agreement on "landing platforms" could probably succeed. "That changes everything," says Kurz. This makes it less attractive for people to get on the wrong track illegally. "It deprives the smugglers of their business foundations and it can mean that we finally stop drowning in the sea because people are not getting on their way anymore, and it stops the overstrain in Central Europe."
The change in migration policy became most apparent in the appearance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She too can now imagine "Sea Landings of Ships" in North African countries. Conclusion: "We have to talk to the countries, we have to consider the needs of these countries, a lot has been achieved in migration, now it is about the landings of refugee ships in North Africa similar to the EU-Turkey deal proceed.
French President Emmanuel Macron pleaded for European solutions. "Do we want national solutions or do we believe in European solutions? I defend Europeans," Macron said before the summit.
Italy's Prime Minister Conte wants action
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte did not want words but actions. Conte obviously does not want to go home empty-handed. Via Twitter, he threatened to veto his country if Italy did not receive support in dealing with refugees at the EU summit.
The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that one must first of all take care of the problem of primary migration. After that, it would also be easier to find a solidarity solution for secondary movements within Europe because the numbers of refugees would then be smaller. Rutte does not expect a final agreement at the summit yet. Rutte also called for agreements with African states on the model of the EU-Turkey refugee deal.
Orbán defends his strict attitude in migration
Hungary's head of government Viktor Orban, who has already been declared by some media to be the winner of the smoldering refugee dispute with Merkel since 2015, defended his strict attitude in migration. "People demand two things, the first is no more migrants, stop that. The second is: Bring back those who are already there," Orban said. "To restore European democracy, we need to go in that direction, and I hope it will happen today."
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, on the other hand, warned against "neo-colonialism" in connection with the planned refugee centers in North Africa. When it comes to such ideas, then "I ask a lot of restraint." If the message is "that Africans are doing what we want, it will go awry, I'm in touch with these governments, they may not be alienated." Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced that she was already in contact with the UN because of the landing centers.
The internal German coalition dispute between CSU and CDU, which should not be resolved at the EU summit in Brussels, played only a marginal role. "It can not be that a Bavarian party decides how Europe works," said the Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel criticizing the CSU. But he was "convinced that (Interior Minister Horst) Seehofer will understand this and that they will come closer together and find more concrete solutions in the coming weeks"."
Did I ever expect this to happen?