By Marine Pennetier
PARIS (Reuters) – Fourteen member countries of the European Union have agreed to a new “solidarity mechanism” proposed by Germany and France to allocate migrants across the bloc, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.
Foreign affairs and Interior ministers of the EU had earlier gathered in Paris to discuss immigration and security issues following a first gathering in Finland last week.
“The conclusion of this morning’s meeting is that, in principle, 14 member states, at this stage, have expressed their agreement with the Franco-German document,” Macron told journalists.
Macron did not spell out specifics but said the new initiative would be “quick” and “automatic”.
A source close to the French presidency told Reuters that in addition to France and Germany, Finland, Luxemburg, Portugal, Lithuania, Croatia and Ireland had also signalled a clear intention to move forward with a new system.
Italy’s Interior minister Matteo Salvini, whose country is at the forefront of the migrant influx in Europe, did not take part in the meeting, however.
In a letter to his French counterpart Christophe Castaner, Salvini warned of the effect of decisions “solely taken in Paris and Berlin.”
Italy took in almost all of the migrants rescued by humanitarian groups at sea until a populist coalition government took office in 2018 and immediately sought to close the nation’s ports to the charity ships.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 426 people have died during attempts to reach Europe in the Mediterranean sea so far this year.
Macron also said France had asked the Libyan government to ensure migrants would no longer be placed in custody in the country and that appropriate measures would be taken to ensure their safety.
(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Matthias Blamont, William Maclean)