EU President Herman Van Rompuy said during an interview on Sunday that the danger of migration to Europe should not be exaggerated and that European migration treaties, including the Schengen agreement, need to be respected. He said “[t]here is of course a migration danger, but do not overdo it.” (“Interrogé sur l’existence d’un danger migratoire lié à l’afflux de migrants depuis le début des révoltes dans le monde arabe, M. Van Rompuy a répondu : ‘Il y a bien sûr un danger migratoire mais il ne faut pas l’exagérer’, lors d’une émission d’une émission commune de la chaîne TV5Monde, la radio RFI et du journal Le Monde.”) In regard to the Schengen agreement, he said “[n]either Italy nor France, until now, has done anything illegal. That said, there is a danger of not respecting the spirit of the Schengen Treaty…” (“Ni l’Italie, ni la France, jusqu’à présent, n’ont fait quelque chose d’illégal. Ceci dit, il y a un danger de ne pas respecter l’esprit du traité de Schengen…”)
Van Rompuy’s remarks are consistent with Jose Manuel Barroso’s statements last week reported by the EU Observer regarding the danger of the “immigration debate being hijacked by ‘populist and extremist’ forces in Europe.” Barroso was quoted as saying “I don’t think it is in the interest of third countries [such as Tunisia] that there is a debate in Europe on such sensitive issues and that certain populist, extremist forces seek to take advantage of these problems.”
We got a small taste of the populist forces at work with yesterday’s results in Finland’s parliamentary elections and the strong third place showing of the True Finns led by Timo Soini. While the True Finns are currently focused more on blocking the Portuguese financial bailout, anti-immigrant sentiments within the party are strong.
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Discussion topics will include:
- – measures to help overcome the dramatic events unfolding in Libya;
- – mobilisation of further resources to meet the humanitarian situation created by the influx of returnees from Libya;
- – challenges to the EU posed by irregular migration;
- – the evacuation of EU citizens;
- – support to the political transitions underway in Tunisia, Egypt and the broader region.
Click here for President Van Rompuy’s invitation letter.
EC President Van Rompuy has called an extraordinary meeting of the European Council: “In light of the developments in our Southern Neighbourhood, and Libya in particular, I decided to convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council. The meeting will take place on 11 March 2011 in Brussels at 11.30 am.”
Click here for full statement.
Italy has requested an extraordinary meeting of the Council of EU Heads of State to discuss the migration situation in Italy. According to the EU Observer, “Hungarian [EU Presidency] sources told EUobserver that Budapest ‘will do all it can to accommodate the Italians,’ but the timing is tight, and it is far from certain whether other EU member states will view the situation the same way as Rome.” The next regularly scheduled meeting of the EU justice and home affairs ministers who would ordinarily consider the situation and Italy’s requests for assistance is scheduled for 24-25 February.
Mario Mauro, MEP, Head of the Italian Delegation (PDL) of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, has also called upon Herman Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso, and EP President Jerzy Buzek to convene a meeting of the EU Heads of State within the next few days. Mauro’s press release describes the situation as “an epic emergency comparable in intensity and scale to the fall of the Soviet Bloc in 1989” and further says that “[w]hat is happening in the Maghreb countries has to fully put into question the weakness of the EU Mediterranean Strategy. The European Commission’s solidarity initiatives or parliamentary debates will not be enough, nor will the prompt use of FRONTEX instruments. We must realise that history is making us face a challenge that has to be tackled with the same determination and the same resources used in recent years to stabilise Eastern European countries. Southern European countries should not be left alone to deal with this urgency.”
In the meantime, the Times of Malta reports that Tunisian security forces are expanding their efforts to secure the departure points in Tunisia.
Click here for MEP Mauro’s Press Release.
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