Migration set to overshadow eurozone reform debate at EU summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (R) arrive to a joint press conference following a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 12 June 2018. [EPA-EFE/OMER MESSINGER]

The political crises in Germany and Italy revolve around a longstanding debate on migration at European level, which is set to overshadow all other issues during the European Council in Brussels, on 28-29 June. EURACTIV.fr reports.

The European Council’s agenda may be loaded, but the issue of migration is set to take centre stage as it has risen to the top of the political agenda in recent weeks.

This is all the more surprising as the crisis is not in full swing as all experts agree that the worst was during the 2015-2016 period which saw a massive influx of refugees, particularly from Syria and Afghanistan, arrive in Europe.

“What we are dealing with is a fit of hysterics, not a migration crisis,” said Yves Bertoncini, president of the French European Movement.

The number of entries in Europe in 2018 has fallen sharply. “The controversy of the recent weeks are linked to political tensions in Germany and Italy. But the debate has been relaunched  and should make it possible to ask fundamental questions,” stated the French President’s Office.

German politics risks affecting eurozone reform

The leaders of France and Germany’ will meet in Berlin on Tuesday (19 June) for a preparatory summit ahead of the European Council at the end of the month. But the two countries continue to hold different views on the subject of the economy. EURACTIV.fr reports.

The pressure put by the CSU on the German government to toughen its stance on migration policy and send migrants back to their country of first entry in exchange for money, is largely to blame for the situation.

However, this is allowed under Article 36 of the Dublin Regulation, which provides for the possible establishment of bilateral agreements. France already has a bilateral agreement with Italy, and Germany would like to follow suit and go further.

The Council could therefore make a decision on the subject without necessarily finalising the long-overdue reform of the obsolete Dublin Regulation, which is currently stuck because of a lack of consensus.

Oettinger appeals to CSU to ease pressure on Merkel

Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger, an ally of beleaguered German Chancellor Angela Merkel from her CDU party, appealed on Monday (25 June) to CDU’s Bavarian sister party, CSU, to ease their pressure on the Chancellor by not setting strict deadlines to fix the migration conundrum.

France rejected the most radical proposals put forward at the mini-summit on migration held in Brussels last Sunday (24 June), including the idea of organising refugee camps in third countries rather than in European countries, which would be “contrary to our values” according a source in the Elysée.

On the other hand, France wants to reintroduce the idea of “hotspots”, or closed detention centres for migrants like those organised in 2016 in Greece and Italy, even though the difference with centres outside the EU seems minimal.

Conte and Macron compare notes on migration at mini-summit

Sixteen EU heads of state and government held an emergency summit in Brussels on Sunday (24 June) to discuss migration – a crisis with a destructive potential for the EU. No results were announced, but sources said the discussions had largely revolved around a proposal by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

A light economic programme

Along the major macroeconomic reforms, the summit is also likely to end up being a disappointment for France, which has made its plan for eurozone budget one of its “red lines”.

The subject will be discussed with the 27 member states on Friday morning notably because it will touch on the banking union.

Some countries do not find the idea of creating a eurozone budget appealing, according to a joint statement by the Dutch Finance Minister and 11 other European finance ministers. It remains clear that there is no consensus on the subject, which finally got Germany’s support.

France ups the pressure for eurozone budget

Without reform the euro area won’t survive, according to France’s economy minister, adding to the pressure on Germany a few weeks ahead of a crucial European Council summit. EURACTIV.fr reports.

In the latest draft Council conclusions, the issue itself is not raised.

To soften up  opposition, French President Emmanuel Macron will meet the Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz on Thursday (28 June), days before Austria takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council on 1st of July.

Macron will also meet the leaders of the Visegrad group of central European countries – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – before the start of the summit.

'Differences' persist on eurozone budget ahead of key EU summit

Eurogroup head Mário Centeno warned Monday (25 June) of differing opinions towards a plan by France and Germany to establish a eurozone budget, ahead of a key EU summit to discuss the matter.

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