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EU Leaders Reach 'Breakthrough' Agreement On Migrants


Merkel: Migration Could Determine EU's Fate
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Germany's government says Athens and Madrid have agreed to take back migrants from Germany who had previously registered asylum bids in Greece and Spain.

The agreements were announced on June 29 at the end of a European Union summit in Brussels where EU leaders tried to tackle migration issues faced by the bloc.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that bilateral agreements had been reached by Greece and Spain to handle migrants who make their way north from southern Europe to Germany.

But Merkel said Germany does not have a similar deal with Italy.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the end of the summit that there was "a commitment to dispense more funds to the governments of Spain and Morocco."

Sanchez said EU leaders recognized that the Morocco-Spain migration route is coming under increasing pressure.

Earlier on June 29, after 12 hours of difficult negotiations on migrant issues, EU leaders in Brussels announced a "breakthrough" agreement to help deal with the large number of migrants who enter the EU via Italy, Spain, and Greece.

That deal envisions other EU countries voluntarily establishing "control centers" to process migrants who are rescued at sea.

It also seeks to establish migrant processing centers outside of the EU -- most likely in North Africa and the Balkans -- through agreements with countries in those regions.

'Step In Right Direction'

Migrants deemed eligible for international protection would be distributed among member states that voluntarily offer to take them in.

Merkel defended that agreement, describing it as a decisive step "in the right direction" toward a common European asylum policy.

"What we achieved here together is perhaps more than I had expected," Merkel told journalists at the end of the Brussels gathering.

The German chancellor said the EU is "not at the end of the road," but she had thought EU leaders "would never be able to agree a common European asylum system" at the summit because of widely divergent stances on migration within the EU.

"The more we agree among ourselves, the closer we get to a possible European solution," Merkel said.

European Council President Donald Tusk also warned at the end of the summit that implementing the accord will be the most difficult part.

"As regards our deal on migration, it is far too early to talk about a success," Tusk said. "We have managed to reach an agreement...But this is in fact the easiest part of the task, compared to what awaits us on the ground when we start implementing it."

'Victory' For Italy

The deal was hailed as a victory for Italy by its new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Conte has been pushing for more burden-sharing from EU countries and had threatened to veto the summit's concluding statement unless the 28 EU leaders reached a common understanding on migration.

"Italy is no longer alone," Conte said after the deal was announced.

Italy for years has been the main point of entry for African migrants willing to risk the dangerous Mediterranean voyage and seek a new life in the EU.

But Conte's government recently stopped allowing boats carrying migrants to enter Italian ports.

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced on June 29 that Italian ports would remain closed "all summer" to ships from nongovernmental organizations that rescue migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe.

"The NGOs will only see Italy on a postcard. The ports will be closed all summer," said Salvini, who is also Italy's new deputy prime minister and head of the far-right League party.

He said the ban also would outlaw "the furnishing of fuel" to the nongovernmental organizations.

"As the Italian military tells me as well as the Libyans, the NGOs help traffickers, consciously or not," Salvini said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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