EU-Med 7 calls for fixed method for redistributing asylum seekers

Grouping of seven EU Mediterranean states unhappy at burden of hosting migrants

France’s president Emmanuel Macron, Cyprus’s president Nicos Anastasiades and Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras talk in Nicosia. Photograph: Yiannis Kourtoglou

Leaders of southern EU countries meeting in Cyprus have called for a permanent mechanism for redistributing asylum seekers who arrive on Europe's Mediterranean shores

At the summit of the seven EU Mediterranean states in Nicosia, which concluded on Tuesday, leaders insisted their countries should not shoulder the primary responsibility for hosting the migrants and argued that the EU should invest in the development of both North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades hosted the heads of government of France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Malta and the foreign minister of Spain in their fifth summit since the founding of EU-Med 7, dubbed "Club Med" in 2013 with the aim of forging common policies on challenges faced by Mediterranean member states. They contain 40 per cent of EU citizens and half its coastline.

Although the summit’s focus was on migration, the most urgent challenge the seven face, the leaders also discussed energy security, defence, constitutional reform, Brexit, European banking and a long-term strategy for tackling climate change.


Pipeline proposal

They agreed to promote a proposal to construct a 2,000km gas pipeline to carry natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe through Cyprus, Greece and Italy. The project would diversify Europe's sources of energy and reduce dependence on Russia.

Speaking after the plenary session, French president Emmanuel Macron urged Europe to defend the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus and their territorial waters which are under challenge from Turkey and argued that all concerned, including Turkey, have the obligation to respect EU member states.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras congratulated the EU on its efforts to resolve the 30-year problem of North Macedonia, the name the Greek parliament agreed to accept for the state that emerged from Yugoslavia at its collapse. He warned that if the EU does not resolve the economic and social problems faced by the southern EU countries due to the influx of migrants, the EU as a whole would encounter "isolation, nationalism, racism and xenophobia".

Bilateral meetings

Although Greece, Italy and Malta have received hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East over the past four years, Cyprus has the highest number of EU arrivals per capita in a population of 1.2 million.

Mr Anastasiades held bilateral meetings with his colleagues while Cypriot foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides consulted with Spanish foreign minister Josep Borell. Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was absent as he is in Mexico discussing the crisis in Venezuela.

The gathering provided the opportunity for Mr Anastasiades to brief leaders on efforts to reunite Cyprus ahead of consultations with UN mediator Jane Holl Lute about the early resumption of talks with Turkish Cypriots which were suspended in mid-2017. The island has been divided since Turkey occupied the north in 1974 following a failed coup by the Greek junta.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times