Rabat – Spain and Germany agreed Saturday to push for an integrated EU policy on migration and boost funding for “border” countries.
Meeting August 11 in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for “a united European front” to face the “concerning” challenges of the recent massive human flows to the European Union.
The two European leaders agreed on shared policy to stem the flow of irregular migrants but also to ease the regularization process for refugees and asylum seekers. The pair also finalized a landmark bilateral deal.
Under the terms of the bilateral agreement, refugees who reach Germany but have already been registered in Spain can be returned to the country within 48 hours.
The German chancellor lauded the bilateral agreement, expressing satisfaction with what she said aimed to achieve “a fair distribution system.”
Regarding the continental agenda, both leaders championed the cause of a “firm” but welcoming EU policy on migration, which they described as a global humanitarian crisis. “Germany and Spain are counting on European solutions,” the German leader said, explaining that EU countries with the highest numbers of migrant arrivals—especially Spain, Greece, and Italy—need greater help and support from the EU.
“No country can be exempt from this challenge,” Merkel asserted. “The racist tendencies we’re seeing, regrettably, in all member countries is something we have to fight against.”
Boosting cooperation with third parties
Of EU members’ cooperation with third parties, Merkel said: “We have to intensify our support for Morocco and Tunisia. They are border countries and they need our help.”
While also calling for more engagement from EU member states, the Spanish prime minister drew attention to the role that non-EU partners play in helping secure the continent’s external borders. He pledged more EU financial support for Morocco and Tunisia, but underlined the need to address the roots of the crisis in origin and transit countries.
“Fourteen kilometers separate the coast of Spain—and therefore Europe—from those of North Africa but there is an infinitely greater distance in terms of development,” Sanchez said. “Reducing the depth of this abyss of inequality must be one of the main tasks of the European Union.”
Merkel said negotiations with Italy and Greece are ongoing to achieve similar agreements to the one obtained on Saturday.
The talks come amid a tempest of scathing criticism that recently targeted Europe’s “appalling” and “deadly” policy on migration.
On Wednesday, August 8, Amnesty International published a report that blamed populist and anti-migrant rhetoric in a number of EU states for the EU’s “reprehensible” and deadly policies that it claimed were responsible for the death of 721 migrants at sea between June and July.