Taoiseach welcomes compromise EU deal on migration

Ireland will accept migrants to Europe as part of burden-sharing, says Leo Varadkar

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has welcomed a late-night breakthrough in talks between the EU member states on a compromise package of migration reforms. Video: EU Council


Patrick Smyth and Pat Leahy in Brussels

Following marathon talks last night in Brussels EU leaders finally signed off on a compromise package of migration reforms.

The summit discussions which concluded at 5am were held up by a refusal of Italy’s new Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte to sign off on any of the summit “conclusions” - which require unanimity - until he was satisfied Italy’s migration concerns were being addressed.

The leaders agreed to add a recommendation on the establishment of common reception processing sites in EU front-line states as well as promising to explore the possibility of “disembarkation platforms”, centres in north Africa where rescued refugees could be directed. A somewhat perplexing declaration that asylum seekers landing in Italy will be regarded as arriving “in Europe,” was also agreed.

But attempts to amend the EU’s asylum regime, the so-called Dublin regulation, which requires asylum seekers to make their applications to the member-state they first land in, were abandoned with a forlorn recommendation to the incoming Austrian presidency that they should continue to pursue a compromise.

Going into this morning’s session of the summit in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Just want to confirm that just before 5 am last night the 28 EU member states managed to agree a compromise framework on going forward when it comes to managing illegal migration largely based on a few principles - first of all, that this is a European problem, and one that we need to work together on.

“We committed to working with African countries, supporting them to build up governance, to build up security and to create economic opportunity. We’re providing over €500 million in addition - an extra €500 million - to the European trust fund for Africa,” he said.

“As well as that, we took the view that at least among countries that were willing to do it, that there would be a degree of burden sharing, a transfer of migrants to countries. And Ireland has already agreed to accept some from that as well,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.

French President Emmanuel Macron applauded the compromise which is seen as an important boost for the beleaguered German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Many predicted the triumph of national solutions on migration. Tonight, we succeeded in achieving a European solution,” he tweeted.

Italy’s Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano, who is with the 5Stars, welcomed the deal:”I think it’s a really good deal and it was a long night I would say but the results are incredible. More than what was commented before,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

But Oxfam’s policy advisor on migration, Raphael Shilhav, complained that the deal was inadequate and primarily addressed external migration problems and not internal secondary flows. “EU leaders’ migration plans should have addressed the flaws of our current asylum system and provide an effective and humane response to migration, not only respond to political problems at home.”

After a very short discussion following the migration debate, leaders agreed to a six-month rollover of sanctions against Russia. They also supported a plan to reshape and reduce the size of the European Parliament after Brexit.

This morning they will briefly discuss Brexit and Eurozone reform.