EU leaders agree to resettle 40,000 migrants; members to decide quotas on voluntary basis


European Union leaders have agreed to resettle 40,000 migrants fleeing war and poverty in North Africa and the Middle East who have already arrived in Europe.Another 20,000 Syrians living in camps outside Europe will also be resettled in the 28-nation bloc.

Member states will in the meantime agree on how many asylum seekers they are willing to take on a voluntary basis by mid-July, while members with no legal right to enter the EU will be sent back.

But Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi lashed out at fellow EU leaders for rejecting mandatory migrant quotas, according to Italian sources.

Diplomatic sources said discussion became increasingly heated and “emotional” as Mr Renzi accused his peers of looking after only their own interests.

“If that’s your idea of Europe, you can keep it,” Mr Renzi told his 27 counterparts.

“Either give us solidarity or don’t waste our time,” they quoted him as saying.

More than 100,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, most of them landing in Italy, Greece and Malta who say their EU partners should share more of the burden.

However, Britain, Hungary and other newer east European member states have balked at quotas due to growing opposition to increased migration at home.

Realistic expectations from members

European Council president Donald Tusk said earlier on Thursday there was “no consensus” on quotas, meaning member states opposed to the idea should make realistic voluntary offers of refuge to deal with the upsurge in migrants.

“The voluntary scheme cannot be an excuse to do nothing. I can understand those who want this voluntary mechanism but they will only be credible if they give precise and significant pledges by the end of July at the latest,” he said.

“Solidarity without sacrifice is pure hypocrisy. Now we don’t need empty declarations on solidarity, only deeds and numbers.”

In the build up to the summit held in Brussels, reports emerged showing crowds of migrants attempting to board and hide in trucks around the French port of Calais, where the entrance to the Channel Tunnel is located which connects France to Britain.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described the plan as one of “modest ambition” adding that he did not give a damn about objections to the plans methodology, “it is whether it can help 60,000 refugees”.

The UN refugee agency called on the EU to make “concrete commitments” to resettle 20,000 refugees.

UK’s membership in the EU

British prime minister David Cameron said he needed a new deal to keep Britain as a member, but his reform agenda was overshadowed by the migrant crisis discussions.

Mr Cameron faces difficult negotiations if he is to persuade other EU members to accept new terms for the United Kingdom before a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether Britain will stay or go.

Mr Cameron has said he supports remaining in a reformed EU, but would not be heartbroken to leave.

He is seeking to limit welfare benefits for migrants from other EU states, as well as guarantees that Britain, home to Europe’s main financial centre, can opt out of rules made by the members of the euro, which Britain says it will never join.



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