EU addresses Mediterranean migrant issue at conference
By Claire Rosemberg, AFPBRUSSELS--Europe's leaders sought how to deal with the drama of Mediterranean boat-people Friday, weeks after the deaths by drowning of 400 refugees fleeing conflict shocked many across the continent.
October 26, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
“Europe can neither save nor welcome the whole world,” the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, told a European Union summit.
“But we are the world's richest continent and so must do more, especially if we act together, seek solutions together, and together take responsibility.”
Countries on the bloc's southern fringe — Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain — and Croatia on the EU's Balkans frontier want difficult decisions on immigration to be taken by the 28-nation bloc.
But as anti-immigrant parties pick up support across the crisis-hit bloc, how to accommodate more foreigners while unemployment nudges record highs remains a politically explosive question.
A draft statement on migration expressed “deep sadness at the recent and dramatic deaths of hundreds of people in the Mediterranean” but delayed key decisions to EU summit meetings in December and June 2014.
“Determined action should be taken in order to prevent the loss of lives at sea,” it said, as Italian authorities reported the rescue of 700 people off Sicily in several operations overnight Thursday to Friday.
“Europe cannot sit there and watch,” Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said as the EU's economically battered southern states pleaded with wealthier northern Europe to take up more of the burden.
Yet the lion's share of refugees ultimately find shelter in northern Europe with Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden taking in 70 percent of those fleeing conflict.