EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

A migrant girl looks on at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 17, 2018. Picture taken September 17, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2018
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EU looks to Egypt, Africa for help with migrant challenge

SALZBURG: Austria urged its European Union partners Thursday to enter talks with Egypt to help stem the flow of migrants entering Europe from Africa, amid deep divisions over how to manage the challenge.
Kurz, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and EU Council President Donald Tusk visited Cairo over the weekend for talks with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, a top army general who took office in 2014. Both men have praised him for stopping people from leaving its coast bound for Europe.
“Egypt has proven that it can be efficient,” Kurz told reporters at an EU summit in Salzburg, Austria. “Since 2016, it has prevented ships sailing from Egypt to Europe or, when they have sailed, it has taken them back.”
Kurz said Egypt is “now prepared possibly to deepen cooperation with us in talks. We should use that.” He also said EU leaders support the idea of entering into talks with other North African countries as well.
In dealing with the migrants crisis of the past few years, the EU has been creative, willing to part with billions to secure deals around the Mediterranean with leaders with autocratic leanings.
The bloc lauds the deal it struck with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for slowing migrant arrivals to a trickle over the last two years, in exchange for up to 6 billion euros ($7 billion) in aid for Syrian refugees there and other incentives.
Italy alone paid billions to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to stop African people from leaving his country’s shores. Thousands were transported from Libya’s coast to its southern border.
Beyond keeping tight control over Egypt’s coastline, El-Sisi could have important influence with the military and militias in lawless, neighboring Libya; a main departure point for migrants trying to enter Europe through Italy. Already, Tusk is lobbying to hold an EU-Arab League summit in Cairo in February.
The call comes after a summer in which Italy’s anti-migrant government closed its ports to NGO ships, and even its own coast guard, carrying people rescued at sea. Hundreds of migrants spent unnecessary days at sea or aboard boats while EU countries bickered over who should take them.
Looking for help from El-Sisi is a new sign of the EU’s determination to outsource the migrant challenge, even though arrival numbers are barely a trickle compared to 2015, when well over a million people entered Europe, mostly fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq.
EU countries are studying plans to create “disembarkation platforms” in northern African countries, where people rescued at sea could be dropped off for screening. No African country has expressed interest in hosting one so far.
The EU’s inability to balance responsibility for the migrants and share the burden of hosting them has been a vote-winner for far-right parties across the 28-nation bloc.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that Africa is not keen at the moment.
“If we take the approach of: ‘we don’t take them, you take them,’ that doesn’t fly,” she said. “But this doesn’t mean that North African countries would not be ready to cooperate with us, and with the UN, to have a reasonable, sustainable solution.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who supports talks with North Africa, believes countries like Italy, Greece and Spain must take responsibility for migrant arrivals, but he also underlines the importance of European solidarity.
“There are rules and they have to be respected. We have to protect our citizens but we must do it while respecting our values. Also, responsibilities cannot be upheld if there is no solidarity,” he said.
Macron and the leaders of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands repeated a similar joint line on the balance between responsibilities and solidarity after talks earlier this month. However, they appeared to suggest that solidarity is best expressed by giving European money to partners who need help. No leader offered to share the refugee burden.
One idea raised in Salzburg has been for countries to pay money to Italy or Greece to take care of migrants themselves.
Asked how much a migrant was worth, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said, in an indignant tone: “We are not at the market. We are speaking about humans. We are not speaking about carpets or goods.”
He said that if Europe starts “to ask: ‘how much is the price of an immigrant?’ it’s a shame for all of us.”


Do not hijack Brexit, UK trade minister warns Britain’s parliament

Updated 12 min 34 sec ago
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Do not hijack Brexit, UK trade minister warns Britain’s parliament

  • Theresa May returns to parliament on Monday to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock
  • Time is running out for Brexit, Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years

LONDON: Parliament cannot be allowed to hijack Brexit, Trade Minister Liam Fox said on Sunday, in a warning to lawmakers who want to take more control over Britain’s departure from the European Union.
With just weeks to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May will return to parliament on Monday to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock after her deal was rejected by lawmakers last week.
She will also speak to ministers on Sunday on a conference call, a government source said, as the prime minister tries to navigate a way through the competing visions for the future from a second referendum to staying in the EU.
Time is running out for Brexit, Britain’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years, but so far there is little that unites a divided parliament beyond its rejection of May’s deal that envisages close economic ties with the EU.
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party is pressing for a new election and for May to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, while others in parliament are lobbying for anything from a second referendum to leaving without an agreement.
Fox, a Brexit supporter, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that May’s divorce agreement with the EU was still the best basis for a deal and warned lawmakers against trying to take more control of Britain’s departure.
“Parliament has not got the right to hijack the Brexit process because parliament said to the people of this country: ‘we make a contract with you, you will make the decision and we will honor it’,” Fox said.
“What we are now getting are some of those who were always absolutely opposed to the result of the referendum trying to hijack Brexit and in effect steal the result from the people.”
Britain voted with a 52 percent majority to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum that exposed deep divisions across the country, divisions that still split cities and towns, and the country’s parliament, almost three years on.
After seeing her deal rejected by more than 200 lawmakers last week, May has opened talks with other parties to try to find a way to break the deadlock.
But with Labour refusing to take part until May rules out leaving without a deal, some lawmakers fear those talks will change little and instead have said they will launch attempts next week to force the government to change course.
Several are trying to make sure Britain does not “accidentally” leave without a deal on March 29, a scenario some businesses say would be catastrophic for the economy.
“What happens when you have a hung parliament is that power does pass from government ... to parliament and that’s what we are seeing play out,” Nicky Morgan, a Conservative former minister, told Sky News.
She said she was backing a bill that would force the government to extend Article 50, which triggered Britain’s two-year talks to leave the EU, if it cannot get an agreement approved by parliament by the end of February.
Dominic Grieve, another Conservative lawmaker, is also looking at ways to stop Britain from leaving without a deal.
With much of the focus now on Labour, its Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said there was now only really two options that could find majority support — a future close economic relationship with the EU or a second referendum — and that it was increasingly inevitable that Article 50 would be extended.
“We’ve arrived at phase three and therefore we need to be realistic about what the options are,” Starmer told the BBC.
“Let’s ... reduce it to the options that are at least capable of getting a majority and that is a close economic relationship and a public vote.”