European Union leaders wrap up marathon migration summit in Brussels

World Today

European Union leaders wrap up marathon migration summit in Brussels

EU leaders had a marathon, all-night negotiating session over the migrant crisis. By dawn they had a plan, but implementing it is another challenge. CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.

Follow Mariam Zaidi on Twitter @zaidi_mariam

A high-stakes summit for the European Union. Either the bloc would re-discover its collective voice – or hurtle toward disaster.

As the summit kicked off, Belgium’s prime minister injected some much needed humor, presenting the UK prime minister with a Belgian football shirt ahead of their teams meeting at the World Cup.

But a long night was ahead of them. A common solution was needed on migration and many rifts and differences remained between countries calling for solidarity and those wanting migrant movement within the EU stopped.

“The invasion should be stopped,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, “and to stop the invasion means to have strong border controls and we do have that.”

Italy’s new Prime Minister was stunningly confident at his summit debut. Giuseppe Conte vetoed draft consensus statements to put pressure on others to find a migration solution that worked for Italy.

Talks went into the night. But as leaders emerged at 4:30am Friday, had a deal been struck?

“As regards our deal on migration, it is far too early to talk about a success,” EU Council President Donald Tusk cautioned. “We have managed to reach an agreement in the European Council. But this is in fact the easiest part of the task, compared to what awaits us on the ground, when we start implementing it.”

The plan is to create centers on European soil to house migrants and process asylum claims. But the process is voluntary.

French President Emmanuel Macron explained that, “France, which is not a country of first arrival, given its situation, will not open a center of this type. But countries which today are countries of first arrival, and who carry alone the burden of these arrivals, will benefit from European financing and solidarity thanks to this solution, if they so wish.”

Friday’s official proceedings kicked off with a Brexit breakfast. But here, EU leaders took just minutes to adopt their summit guidelines. They were brief, simply calling on the UK to do more to unlock further progress.

“I want to see a strong and deep security partnership continuing with our European Union partners,” UK Prime Minister Theresa May said.

“We’ll be setting that out in more detail in the white paper we’ll be publishing shortly. We are ready to intensify and accelerate the pace of negotiations and I want to see that from the European Commission and European Union as well.”

So at this summit, the EU prevailed. But just how this migration policy holds up – and if countries will provide the real unity on migration so desperately needed by frontline states – remains to be seen.