The interior and migration ministers of Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, issued a joint statement after a summit of the so-called MED group of 5 in Athens, saying that the EU’s new migration pact in its current format does not provide sufficient reassurances to the frontline member states. Poland and Hungary have stated that they oppose the plan, even though, under the Commission proposal, the EU would pay a country 10,000 euros for every migrant they take in.
The EU has fought bitterly since 2015, when over one million people, most of them Syrian, Iraqi or Afghan refugees, arrived on its shores, the majority through Greece.
A new pact to tackle the issue was put forward by the European Commission last September but a final deal has yet to be reached.
Arrivals have dropped significantly to about 95,000 people last year, according to United Nations data, most to Italy, Spain and Greece. These countries now demand that the new migration pact contain mandatory relocation quotas.
“It is definite that all member states need to participate in the migratory pressures. We cannot have the five Mediterranean member states taking all of the pressure from the rest of the European Union. We need the solidarity to be mandatory and if there is the concept of flexible solidarity introduced by the commission approved, then we need to make sure that a sufficient number of relocations do take place and that the solidarity offered by member states is impactful for the frontline states.” stated the Greek minister on migration, Notis Mitarachi.
The ministers called for more cooperation with origin or transit countries, a centrally-managed European expatriation mechanism, as well as relocation of asylum seekers among all member states.
“We want a pact of migration and asylum that must be built on solidarity and fair, shared responsibility. For us that is the main question. And of course, there are the external dimensions, we have to increase, to improve our cooperation with other countries. That is fundamental, to fight against irregular migration, to fight against smugglers.” added the Spanish interior minister, Fernando Grande-Marlaska.
“Mandatory solidarity” is the most sensitive part of the pact, obliging each country to host some migrants by either accepting migrants, sponsoring their return to countries of origin or offering material assistance on the ground to arrival countries. The European Council is expected to vote on whether to adopt the pact this autumn.