At a meeting in Brussels this Thursday, the EU leaders once again affirmed their commitment to curb immigration into Europe. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk urged European nations to support the Italian government in carrying out its operations. Tusk declared that “we have a real chance of closing the Central Mediterranean route,” and added that he expects results within the next few weeks.
Immigrants arriving to Italy have decreased by around 70 percent in the past year, a victory in European terms. This stalled talk on policy reform, particularly the revamping of the Dublin Regulations which has been pushed to December of this year. The results delivered by Italy have led Tusk to agree “to offer Prime Minister Gentiloni stronger support for Italy’s work with the Libyan authorities,” by stepping up financial contributions to a special two-year-old trust fund for northern Africa. He said the objective of this plan is to move forward in Europe on key issues, like security or migration while keeping the bloc’s unity.
An Effective Burden-Sharing Mechanism
The issue of burden sharing amongst the Member States was at the forefront of this meeting. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, standing next to Tusk, again lashed EU member countries for having fallen way short of their duty to contribute to the Africa trust fund. The trust fund was initially underpinned by 1.8 billion euros from the Commission. Member states were supposed to match that amount but have so far offered no more than 175 million of which Italy gave 79 million. “We are reaching our limits,” Juncker added, as the commission had increased its share to up to 3.1 billion lately. European states such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia continue to oppose any relocation schemes of asylum seekers in Greece and Italy.
Meanwhile in Libya
The appeal of the Italian measures in the Central Mediterranean raises concerns in regards to the deteriorating conditions migrants face in Libya. Equally important however is the deadly journey across the Mediterranean, which is also a humanitarian crisis requiring immediate action. The success of Italian measures to date in decreasing the numbers of those perished at sea is questionable.
In fact, a publication by the UK House of Lords reports a tragic increase in deaths to 2,150 in 2017 to date. This is attributable to several factors including the blockage of humanitarian relief missions by the Libyan coast guards, the sinking of seaworthy ships by the EU Navy and the increase of influx through Libya after closing down the Turkish route. Despite these alarming results, the EU has nevertheless decided to continue going down this dangerous road with Italy.