Cyprus pins hopes on Portugal to steer EU migration pact

Meanwhile, the EU hopes that a deal on migration pact is still possible within 2021. The initial projections suggested that considering the divisions among EU member states over the issue, a deal could be reached in the next two years. [EPA-EFE/MANUEL DE ALMEIDA]

“There is no better member state of the EU than Portugal to deal successfully” with negotiations on the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Wednesday (6 January). EURACTIV’s media partner Lusa reports.

“As far as the EU is concerned, we believe that Portugal is one of the countries in which we can most rely,” Christodoulides said in reference to the six-month Portuguese Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers, which started on 1 January.

“During our deliberations, I had the opportunity to reaffirm our support for the priorities of the Portuguese presidency of the EU, specifically our common confidence in a stronger Europe based on democratic principles and solidarity,” Christodoulides said.

The Cypriot minister was speaking at a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart, Augusto Santos Silva, after a working meeting in Lisbon in which the migration negotiations were discussed among other issues.

“I am sure that Portugal, as a Mediterranean country, understands very well the concerns surrounding border countries and the problem we have with migration,” the centre-right politician said.

He added that the EU needs to address this issue with “a holistic approach, especially with African countries”.

The Cypriot minister also assured that “Cyprus is committed to being a source of support” on which the Portuguese government can rely over the next six months.

Last September, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new pact on migration and asylum, the negotiations for which now fall to the Portuguese presidency of the EU Council, which began on 1 January.

Hopes for a deal in 2021

The EU hopes to strike a deal on the migration pact this year. But considering divisions among EU member states, an agreement may be reached within the next two years.

In an interview with El Pais, Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the European Commission behind the proposal, said he was optimistic that there is room for agreement between Southern EU countries, which are at the frontline of the migration crisis, and the Visegrad group of Central European states, which are the most vocal opponents to a common EU migration policy.

“We must oppose the populist front by showing that the EU can solve the problem of migration,” Schinas said.

“What best explains the rise of populism is not the economic crisis or the rise of inequality, but our failure to solve the problem of immigration,” he added.

Schinas considers the new proposal as the best possible option which can satisfy all sides.

“The south will have the certainty that there will be effective and permanent solidarity and the east we will be given the option not to have forced relocations but equivalent measures,” Schinas said.

“The country that does not want refugees will be responsible and will finance the returns in the name of the 27,” he added.

Southern EU countries, which bear the greatest burden of migration, have said that the proposal is a good starting point but called for further changes to be made.

The Visegrad group, for its part, has flatly rejected the proposal.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos and Frédéric Simon]

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