EU leaders seal hard-fought migration deal

AFP
The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.
AFP
AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) at the start of an European Union summit focused on migration, Brexit and eurozone reforms on June 28, 2018, at the Europa building in Brussels. 

EU leaders clinched a crucial migration deal during all-night talks on Friday that Italy's hardline new premier said meant his country was "no longer alone" in shouldering the responsibility for migrants.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads a month-old anti-immigration government, had vetoed joint conclusions for the entire agenda of the summit in Brussels until his demands were finally met before dawn.

Italy has turned away a series of migrant boats in recent weeks, sparking a fresh political row three years after the bloc faced its biggest ever migration crisis.

"Today Italy is no longer alone. We are satisfied," Conte, a former law professor who until recently was a virtual political unknown, told reporters following marathon talks described as "virulent."

The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc, most likely in north Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats.

Member countries could set up migrant processing centers — but only on a voluntary basis — to determine whether they returned home as economic migrants or admitted as refugees in willing states.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that "European cooperation enabled this."

Merkel hails 'good message' 

The leaders also offered a concession to German Chancellor Merkel, who faces a rebellion from within her own coalition government, with moves to stop migrants registered in Italy and other EU countries from moving to Germany.

Merkel said: "After intensive discussion on what is perhaps the most challenging issue for the European union, it is a good message that we have adopted a joint text."

She had earlier warned that "migration could end up determining Europe's destiny" if it failed to reach an agreement.

The summit conclusions called on member countries to take "all necessary" steps to stop migrants initially arriving in countries such as Italy and Greece from moving on to Germany.

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