EU pledges migration help to southern Med countries

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NICOSIA: European Council president Herman Van Rompuy said Wednesday the EU could do more to assist southern Mediterranean countries tackle an influx of illegal migration in the region.

"I agree that we need to develop new or improved partnerships with the countries in the southern Mediterranean," Rompuy told reporters after meeting Cyprus President Demetris Christofias.

"Such cooperation should include building capacities in the area of border management and to cooperate in combating irregular migration and trafficking in human beings as well as on return and readmission," he added.

Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta are bearing the brunt of migration pressure from North Africa, and the political unrest that has rocked Tunisia, Egypt and Libya in recent months has raised fears of an even greater influx.

Cyprus is another member state that has asked for more effective EU action to lessen the burden on those countries on Europe’s immigration frontline.

Although it has not been affected by the crises in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt it has said it does advocate solidarity on migration policy.

"We consider that solidarity between member states is essential," said Christofias.

"We also consider essential the cooperation between the EU and its southern neighbours, as well the advancement of bilateral cooperation between the EU and countries of origin of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants."

He said there was a need for "better coordination and cooperation between EU member states" on tackling immigration.

And Rompuy said the EU is fully aware that the "present situation in the Southern Neighborhood region could add to the migratory pressures which Cyprus already faces".

Italy in particular has stepped up appeals for help to Brussels after being swamped with Tunisian refugees.

More than 25,000 migrants have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in fishing boats from North Africa since the start of the year and most have been moved to detention centres on the Italian mainland.
The European Council will discuss the issues of asylum and border management at its next meeting on June 24.

During their hour-long working breakfast Christofias and Rompuy also discussed economic crisis and political upheaval in the region.

Cyprus is among the few inside the bloc that opposes military intervention in Libya.
"The reform and transition process is a sovereign issue of these peoples and there should be no foreign intervention," said Christofias.

"Possible involvement of the Union should be limited to instances were such a request is put forward by the said country."

He suggested the EU could use Cyprus as a peace broker in the region because of its good relations with countries such as Libya and Egypt.

Rompuy said economic measures approved by the European Council in March will help the bloc sustain its recovery from the financial crisis and create jobs.

"Of course the problems of some countries are not over yet. But we have the instruments to deal with them."

"Those problems are the remainders of the past, in which there were no instruments and no political will to tackle the imbalances."


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