French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for a joint European response to the EU's flashpoint challenge of immigration amid deep divisions in the bloc.
Macron said the EU needs ‘a European response to the migration challenge,’ with more capacity for border agency Frontex to monitor its outside borders.
He also said Paris and Berlin are in favour of deals that would allow EU member states to reject at their borders asylum seekers already registered elsewhere in the bloc, usually their first port of call.
‘France and Germany will ensure that those who are registered in a Schengen zone country can be taken back as quickly as possible to the country where they were registered,’ he said, vowing to achieve this through bilateral and multi-national agreements.
This would meet a demand Germany's hardline Interior Minister Horst Seehofer made forcefully last week, spelling a political crisis for Merkel.
Merkel, who must now seek agreements with other member states to appease Seehofer, said that ‘we are in favour of supporting affected states, and of course for solidarity between member states’.
She added that ‘Italy is especially hard hit because of Libya’, now the main gateway for African migrants.
Macron also called for a ‘more efficient system of solidarity and responsibility’ on registering and distributing asylum-seekers.
He also said the EU should step up dialogue with migrants' countries of origin and of transit, and especially with conflict-torn Libya, to stop illegal traffickers.
More broadly, the French president said Europe, with a rise in populist right-wing forces, faces ‘a moment of truth’ and must seek common ground on migration as well as economic, political, financial, environmental and defence issues.
He said the EU now faced a ‘civilisational choice’ between those who would allow Europe to ‘unravel’ and ‘those who believe, as we do, that we can move Europe forward by making it both more sovereign and united’.
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