EU leaders agree to 40,000 migrants

EU leaders have agreed to the principle of redistributing 40,000 asylum seekers across their bloc, but left the details to be hashed out later, amid hefty disagreement on whether member states should be obliged to take in the migrants.


Conflicts and repression in Africa and the Middle East have driven thousands of people to travel to the European Union in search of protection or a better life.

Many have lost their lives during attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea, while the bulk of arrivals to the bloc have been concentrated in a handful of member states, stretching resources there. Less affected EU countries have been under pressure to show solidarity.

“Leaders agreed that 40,000 persons in need will be relocated from Greece and Italy to other states over the next two years,” said EU President Donald Tusk early Friday, following late-night talks in Brussels.

A further 20,000 refugees will be resettled from outside the EU, such as displaced Syrians, the leaders agreed. EU interior ministers will finalise the scheme by the end of July, Tusk said.

But the summit discussion was bogged down by a fierce debate, after it became clear that several member states would oppose a mandatory scheme for the relocation of the 40,000 asylum seekers.

“Passions are inflamed,” one EU source said, as the talks dragged on into the early hours of Friday.

“If you do not agree with the 40,000, you do not deserve to be called Europe,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told his counterparts, according to another source.

“Either there is solidarity, or please don’t waste our time,” he added.

It is now expected that interior ministers will proceed with a voluntary redistribution scheme.

Following the summit debate, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described migration as the “biggest challenge” that the EU had faced during her time in office.