Merkel plays down chances of breakthrough in EU migration talks
German Chancellor Angela Merkel played down expectations of any major breakthrough at hastily-arranged talks among European Union leaders on Sunday on the migration dispute dividing Europe and threatening her own government, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Plans for the emergency meeting, before a full EU summit at the end of next week, were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy’s new prime minister declared that a draft accord on migration had been withdrawn because of a clash with Merkel.
She is under pressure to get EU leaders at the main June 28-29 summit to agree to share out migrants more evenly to placate her conservative allies, Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU). But Italy and others are very reluctant.
Initially expected to involve eight EU leaders, the Sunday talks will now bring together at least 17, according to the latest count by officials in Brussels.
“The meeting on Sunday is a consultation and working meeting at which there will be no concluding statement,” Merkel told a news conference on Friday during a visit to Lebanon. “It is an initial exchange with interested member states.”
In an interview with Spiegel magazine, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini gave a foretaste of the challenge Merkel faces in clinching a deal: “In a year it will be decided if a united Europe still exists or not.”
He added that Italy was not ready to take in even a single migrant more.
Germany has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrians and others since 2014 but Merkel’s “open door” migration policy is threatening her ruling coalition. She said on Friday conditions in Syria were not yet right for refugees to return.
If no “satisfactory” deal is achieved at next week’s summit, German Interior Minister and CSU chief Horst Seehofer has threatened to defy Merkel and turn away at the German border people who have applied for asylum in other EU states.
National border controls would undermine the EU’s system of free travel and could cause a German government crisis.
“I am working for the coalition to do its tasks as set out in the coalition agreement,” Merkel said, speaking alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. “We have lots more to do.
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