Disagreement over immigration funds permeates EU summit – POLITICO

BRUSSELS – European Union countries are squabbling over billions in new money to deal with migration as asylum applications soar and a backlog at the continent’s borders continues.

Germany which Receive A quarter of all asylum applications in the EU in 2022 specifically want to “revitalize” the EU’s relations with neighboring Turkey, according to a senior German official – referring to the last time the bloc faced such levels of migration.

Then, in 2016, the European Union offered Turkey billions in exchange for state housing for thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. Now, there is a payment for the license up to 10.5 billion euros With new money not only for Turkey, but also for countries like Libya or Tunisia, in the hope that it will help them prevent people from entering the European Union without permission.

The debate jumped onto the agenda for the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. And the countries are debating whether to refer to a monetary demand in the final conclusions of the meeting, according to five diplomats and officials from four different countries.

The behind-the-scenes fight illustrates the extent to which immigration has come to dominate the political agenda. Summit organizers had hoped to keep divisive talk about immigration to a minimum in favor of discussions about Russia, China and economic security. But with high-profile disasters such as the recent sinking of a migrant ship near Greece and arrival numbers continuing to climb steeply, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid this hot-button issue.

Notably, the draft conclusions For the summit, which took place on Wednesday night and was seen by Politico, there were still two indirect references to the new migration funds: an amount of 10.5 billion euros and another 2 billion euros to “manage migration” within the borders of the European Union.

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Whether this language survives until Friday is another question.

Germany: Let’s talk about Türkiye, not money

Germany, as always, is one of the main players in the debate — and in this case, making arguments for both sides.

On the one hand, Berlin wants to renew the EU’s relationship with Turkey, hoping it can take in more asylum seekers and help reduce unauthorized border crossings. In return, the Germans want the EU to improve trade relations with the country.

On the flip side, however, Berlin is adamantly opposed to trying to mention money explicitly in the summit outcomes. The logic: Committing new billions now will jeopardize upcoming talks about whether to add €66 billion to its budget. Germany wants to discuss the entire package at once, rather than agreeing to parts of it in advance.

As of Wednesday night, the summit’s draft outcome still included indirect approval of funds.

Germany, as usual, is one of the key players in the debate – and in this case, making arguments for both sides David Gannon/AFP via Getty Images

The document mentions “financing mechanisms” – seen as a reference to €10.5 billion – for “external aspects of migration”. This money will go to countries like Turkey, Libya and Tunisia, which migrants often pass through on their way to Europe.

There is also an indirect reference to €2 billion to manage internal migration in the EU. The text calls for “support for displaced persons,” particularly from Ukraine, through “adequate and flexible financial assistance to member states that bear the brunt of medical, educational, and subsistence costs for refugees.” Translated, this means more money for the countries that host the bulk of Ukrainian refugees, such as Poland and Germany.

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However, during a meeting of EU ambassadors on Wednesday, German officials urged their counterparts to cut or significantly reduce both corridors, according to the diplomats and the five officials, who, like the others in this story, have been granted anonymity because they were not allowed to speak publicly. Discuss conversations.

As of Wednesday night, that appeal failed. But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz may discuss the issue himself with his counterparts on Thursday.

The German argument is that including the numbers would mean EU leaders are essentially taking a big step towards ratifying the full budget package – something the European Commission has said. required Just last week – before discussing the matter, two officials said.

However, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to present her €66 billion budget plan briefly during a meeting of EU leaders on Thursday, meaning there is likely to be an initial discussion about funds, officials said.

Von der Leyen’s plans are expected to encounter resistance from a number of countries, particularly the so-called “frugal” countries, including Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin on Wednesday, a senior German official also expressed caution about von der Leyen’s plan.

“One of the questions is: Is the committee’s assessment of the situation convincing?” said the senior official, who could not be named because of the rules under which the briefing was organized.

Is it time to work with Erdogan again?

At the same time, the senior German official stressed Berlin’s interest in renewing the EU’s relationship with Turkey.

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“[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan has been re-elected, and this should be an opportunity for the European Union to take another broad look at its relationship with Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan | Adem Altan/AFP via Getty Images

“For us, it is about putting EU-Turkey relations back on the agenda…and possibly revitalizing them, if all parties want to commit to that,” the official continued, adding that the European Commission and EU foreign policy coordinator Josep Borrell should “return In the fall with proposals.

One idea could be an update of trade rules between the EU and Turkey — a thorny issue, though talks between Brussels and Ankara have failed to make progress on modernizing the so-called EU-Turkey customs union for several years.

Schultz held a phone call with Erdogan on Wednesday during which the two leaders discussed how to “increase cooperation and deepen exchanges on various issues of cooperation,” according to Stephen Hebbestreit, a spokesman for Schultz.

Any progress in EU-Turkey relations will also require the agreement of the EU countries at perennial disagreement with Turkey – Greece and Cyprus.

In this sense at least, there seems to be progress: “We agreed to include a paragraph on Turkey and future relations,” said a Greek diplomat.

The latest draft conclusions released on Wednesday night ask Borrell and the Commission to “report” on EU-Turkey relations “with a view to moving forward in a strategic and forward-looking manner”.

Barbara Moens, Jacob Hanke Villa, Lilly Baer, ​​Jacopo Paregazzi and Gregorio Sorgi contributed reporting.

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