Summit deal means migrant crisis 'now an EU problem'
Prevention, protection and solidarity pledged by leaders25 October, 18:38
(By Sandra Cordon)
(ANSA) - Rome, October 25 - European Union leaders agreed Friday on new, collective measures to cope with Italy's migrant crisis, demonstrating that the problem is now shared by all of Europe, said Premier Enrico Letta.
Even as he spoke, the depth of the problem was graphically illustrated by Friday's rescue of more than 800 migrants in four separate operations by Italian Navy ships in the Sicilian Channel between Italy and Africa.
As well, the memory of two boat disasters in the same area that ended in the deaths of 400 migrants earlier this month haunted the two-day summit of EU government leaders in Brussels.
Letta, who appeared to win on his key demands that Europe's leaders acknowledge the migrant crisis is a shared responsibility, expressed "deep satisfaction with the outcome of the EU summit".
He praised the "concept of solidarity" endorsed by leaders, turning the crisis into a Europe-wide problem.
In their closing statement, the EU leaders expressed "deep sadness" over the recent migrant deaths and pledged action to tackle the issue, setting out several points under what they called the "imperative of prevention and protection and guided by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility".
Leaders have determined action "should be taken in order to prevent the loss of lives at sea and to avoid that such human tragedies happen again".
To that end, the summit agreed to work with migrants' countries of origin and international organizations, including the United Nations refugee agency, to get at the root causes of such desperate migration.
The leaders also demanded greater efforts towards fighting human smuggling and trafficking within European states as well as in countries of origin.
EU President Herman van Rompuy said it was clear that the EU shares responsibility with the countries most affected. "It is not a new problem but now there is a sense of urgency, and we must help the most exposed countries," added European Commission President José Barroso.
A review is scheduled for June 2014 of asylum policies, the leaders said.
Letta also noted that further operational planning sessions are scheduled for the December meeting of the European leaders. A new border surveillance system has already been put in place by the EU, and a Mediterranean task force established to bolster that effort.
The two boats that were picked up Friday morning, carrying a total of 800 migrants, were tracked by Italy's new Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation, launched after the early October disasters and deaths.
Such efforts will be bolstered with aircraft contributed to the EU border control agency Frontex by the Netherlands, Letta said.