EU-Arab Summit on Migration Set for February

EU-Arab Summit on Migration Set for February

Friday, 19 October, 2018 - 08:15
Flags of 16 EU countries are seen ahead of an emergency European Union leaders summit on immigration at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Asharq Al-Awsat
European Union and Arab leaders will meet in Egypt in late February for their first summit as part of efforts to forge a new European-African alliance and fight migrant smuggling, officials said Thursday.

European leaders first mentioned the summit in Austria last month as they vowed to intensify talks with Egypt and other North African countries to curb illegal migration.

"The European Council welcomes the holding of the forthcoming first summit between the 28 EU Member States and the League of Arab States, hosted by Egypt on 24-25 February 2019," the council of EU leaders said after a summit in Brussels.

EU officials insisted the summit was about more than just migration, but part of a broader push to build closer ties with Africa outlined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September.

"It is now much more than about migration and fighting traffickers," an EU official told reporters.

Juncker urged the EU to strike a "new alliance" with Africa that would create millions of jobs and include a free trade deal.

The Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation EU, hopes the strategy will both showcase its international influence and help stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.

The EU also wants to boost development in sub-Saharan Africa to ease the poverty that often drives migration.

EU officials say Egypt has set a high bar in fighting traffickers and smugglers, which could be emulated by other North African countries.

The EU is increasingly focused on bolstering its external borders amid longstanding divisions over redistributing asylum-seekers who make it to Italian and other European shores.

But it is still confronted with the refusal of Hungary and other eastern countries to admit migrants.

And Italy's populist government has this year turned away migrant rescue ships in a bid to force fellow EU countries to share responsibility for them.

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