January 16, 2018
Latest News

EU's south calls on entire bloc to share burden of managing migrant flows

Rome, Jan 10 (efe-epa).- Seven of the European Union's southern members on Wednesday urged countries across the 28-member bloc to share in the burden of border protection, saying that managing the flow of migrants from war-torn or economically destitute nations will continue to be a fundamental challenge in the future.

Those concerns were expressed in the final declaration of the EU Med Group's summit, which was held in Rome and brought together the heads of state or government of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.

The brief gathering Wednesday night also served as a forum to discuss economic issues.

"The management of migration flows will be a fundamental challenge for the EU in the years to come, and the Southern EU countries are particularly concerned and affected," the declaration read.

The seven nations expressed those worries after a year in which an estimated 171,635 immigrants arrived by sea on European coasts: 119,310 in Italy, 29,595 in Greece, 21,663 in Spain and 1,067 in Cyprus, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration.

That was a sharp drop from 2016, when an estimated 363,504 people arrived in Europe by boat.

Although Italy accounted for nearly 70 percent of the arrivals, the number reaching the country's shores was down from 181,436 in 2016.

The IOM estimates that 3,116 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean Sea in 2017, down from 5,143 the previous year.

The declaration says all EU nations must acknowledge and share in the "fundamental role and burden of protecting" the borders of the southern European states.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said in a press conference that immigration was the most important issue the EU would face in the coming years and said no country should be alone in confronting that task.

French President Emmanuel Macron said for his part that the EU's asylum rules put an unfair burden on countries that serve as points of arrival for Europe-bound migrants.

Known as the Dublin Regulation, those rules typically require potential refugees to seek asylum in the European country in which they initially arrived.

The countries also stressed the need to address the root causes of migrant flows through cooperation with countries of origin and transit, particularly in Africa.

In that regard, they underscored the benefits of the 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey that sharply reduced the flow of migrants to Greece last year via the Aegean Sea.

A total of 29,595 people arrived by sea in Greece in 2017, down from 173,561 in 2016, according to the IOM.

The leaders also expressed optimism on the economic front during the summit, predicting that 2018 would be a year of full economic recovery after a decade of financial crises.

They stressed, however, that more integration was needed for the bloc's long-term economic health.

The leaders emphasized the need to combine economic growth with social wellbeing, saying that to that end "further steps to complete the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) are necessary to achieve more sustainable and balanced growth, competitiveness, quality employment and convergence."

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