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1ST LEAD Tusk: EU countries are united over need to stem illegal migration By Emoke Bebiak and Alvise Armellini, dpa

Europe
15.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Brussels (dpa) - The first priority of European Union member states on the issue of migration is to stop illegal migrants getting into the bloc, European Council President Donald Tusk said Friday after an EU summit.

The bloc‘s 28 leaders discussed migration over dinner Thursday night, where Tusk aimed to re-energize efforts to find a solution to the EU‘s migrant crisis, which became acute in 2015, by trying to move away from the issue of mandatory redistribution of migrants.

"Yesterday‘s discussion on migration confirmed the hierarchy of our aims, where protecting our territory, protecting our external borders as well as stemming illegal migration come first," Tusk said.

Earlier in the week, Tusk framed Thursday‘s discussion by saying mandatory quotas had been "highly divisive" and "ineffective."

The comments drew mixed reactions from EU leaders, with countries like Austria, Germany and France critical and others such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, which have fiercely opposed quotas, agreeing with Tusk.

On Friday, Tusk acknowledged that mandatory quotas remained a "a contentious issue," adding, however, that "its temperature has decreased significantly."

"I hope that with yesterday‘s debate, we have managed to clear the air," Tusk said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that relocation of migrants from Italy and Greece across the bloc has been a "success."

"I don‘t know why we think that relocation could be a threat to civilization in Europe," he said. "We need to calm things down a bit."

EU member states approved by qualified majority the mandatory relocation scheme in 2015 to help overburdened member states cope with an influx of people at the height of the migration crisis.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland opposed the decision from the start, and have been taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the EU commission for refusing to comply.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said complying with the quotas was a "point of principle."

"There cannot be optional decisions on the part of the European Union," Gentiloni said.

 

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