European leaders at a summit on migration European leaders at a summit on migration  (AFP or Licensors)

Poland, Hungary block EU migration statement at summit

Poland and Hungary blocked a symbolic European Union statement about migration on Friday, but other leaders said they were continuing to overhaul the bloc’s rules for handling irregular arrivals anyway.

By Stefan J. Bos

The leaders of the EU and several other European countries met in Granada, Spain, as some 250,000 people arrived so far this year beyond regular border crossings to the European Union.

Although the EU is home to 450 million people,Rome, Madrid, and Berlin have voiced concern about increasing irregular immigration.

That has led to tensions within the EU’s Schengen zone, allowing passport-free travel. Several EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland, have reintroduced controls at their borders to better control migration.

It is also a politically sensitive issue ahead of regional elections in Germany on October 8, a national vote in Poland a week later, and a continent-wide parliamentary ballot next June.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Germany and Poland’s opposition leader of collaborating to push new EU laws fining countries if they refuse to host people arriving from the Middle East and Africa.

It was also among the reasons why Poland and Hungary blocked a symbolic EU statement about migration.

While the two nations cannot block the EU’s new migration pact, their criticism raised questions about whether the union can effectively implement a deal about dividing migrants fleeing war, persecution, and poverty among member states.

Human smugglers

Yet Charles Michel, the president of the EU’s European Council, remained optimistic that the summit helped to target human smugglers.

“We do need to protect the EU’s external borders indeed. We want to support countries that are at the frontlines of border protection,” he told reporters. Michel added: “We need to be more active and operational to dismantle the criminal groups.”

The European Union leaders also urged EU candidate countries seeking membership to speed up reforms, explained Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU’s executive European Commission. “The accession process to the European Union is a merits-based one. This was also very clear in our discussion. No shortcuts, no automated accession to the European Union. It is merits-based,” she stressed.   

Wartorn Ukraine also seeks to join the European Union, but EU member state Hungary says Kyiv should first improve the rights of ethnic Hungarians living there.

There seemed to be some consensus among EU leaders on other issues discussed at the summit, including cooperating in technology, defense, and energy independence at a time of war in Ukraine.

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07 October 2023, 16:53