The night of 28-29 June was expected to be long and difficult at the EU summit, as the 28 EU member-states sought to find a point of convergence on the migration issue.

The difficulties were apparent even before the working dinner, as the new Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte decided to block the entire draft conclusions, even on subjects that had been discussed –such as defence security and commerce – unless his demands on the migration front would be accepted.

The basic point of concern for the Italians is a more just distribution of migrants among the member-states, so that countries of first entry will not be overly burdened. Rome is reportedly demanding a complete change or abolition of the Dublin Regulation, and the payment of 500mn euros to bolster the emergency trust fund for Africa, to support northern African countries, especially Libya.

Rome’s stance brought it in direct confrontation with the Visegrad countries and especially Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who categorically rejected any such notion.

Meanwhile, in the draft conclusions that had circulated earlier, the basic proposal was the creation of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with third countries, with the UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The objective is to prevent migrants from embarking on boats for the dangerous journey, while on this platform there will be a separate registration of refugees and other migrants separately.

Moreover, in the context of protecting the external borders of the EU, the draft conclusions called for the adoption of flexible instruments to combat illegal migration through the multi-year Fiscal Framework, and for bolstering Frontex, so that through cooperation with third countries, it can play a more important role in the return of migrants. The Commission will attempt to forge a more cohesive policy in this area.

Angelos Athanasopoulos