The EU, Merkel And Migration
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel considers it the make-or-break issue for the European Union. It certainly is for her government. That issue's migration, how to handle the million and a half economic migrants and refugees from the world's worst conflicts who've reached Europe's shores in the last few years. For now it looks like disagreements over the migrants will not break the European Union. After pulling an all-nighter in Brussels, EU leaders announced an agreement on several albeit vague measures to control the flow of asylum-seekers.
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson covered that EU summit and joins us from there now. Soraya, thanks so much for being with us.
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Yeah, you're welcome. Good morning.
SIMON: The Southern European countries wanted help in dealing with the migrants who still arrive on their shores. What did they get out of this?
NELSON: Well, the main thing is that Europe is now taking a harder line on migration and that they're talking about creating screening centers be they on the edges of Europe or even in Africa and places like that where migrants who tried to do this crossing over the Mediterranean would be kept until their cases can be adjudicated. And that reduction and that attention is something that certainly countries like Italy were looking for because they're worried about these people who come and then end up in their country and draining their resources.
SIMON: There's been an awful lot of anti-immigrant talk among populist politicians - for example, the prime minister of Hungary - over the past few months. Was this addressed?
NELSON: It certainly was. Viktor Orban actually took the unusual step of speaking in English to Western reporters reiterating these issues of this invasion, as he calls it, of these mostly Muslim migrants who are coming to Europe. And another thing that he got as well as what they call the Visegrad countries, which are Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary - they were able to ensure that there weren't any mandates, that the EU wouldn't be ordering them what to do. And so that in addition to the EU in general is now taking a much harder line on migration is something they consider a victory.
SIMON: Chancellor Merkel's government - the survival of her government was considered intrinsic to these talks, wasn't it?
NELSON: It is and still is. It's still up in the air about what's going to happen with that.
SIMON: Anything in this agreement to mollify her and for that matter people contending for control?
NELSON: Well, see; she certainly felt that way or suggested that yesterday at the briefing that she gave us after the summit. She says in fact this exceeds what her coalition partner, the CSU - these are the Bavarians, conservatives who have been aligned for decades with her Christian Democrat party. And she says that, OK, you know, the EU is committed now to these centers, to reducing what they call secondary migration, which is when the migrants for example register in Italy or Greece or Spain, the first port of entry in the EU, and then they end up moving to Germany and refiling their claim there.
And so she feels that in addition to an agreement she's struck with Spain and Greece to take back migrants who are in fact registered in those countries and who cross the Austrian border into Germany, that this is more than what he was asking for, he being the interior minister who's threatening to unilaterally close Germany's borders to most migrants.
SIMON: Soraya, having covered this for a number of years, do you sense there's fewer countries in the European Union who are willing to work out compromises with each other to stay together?
NELSON: That's certainly the sense that came out of this summit. Italy, for example - the Italian prime minister basically threatening to veto anything that was coming out of the summit which would have derailed it just to get his point across. And the countries like Austria, which is now going to be taking over the EU presidency, still talking about national actions when it comes to migration or other things without doing it in conjunction with the EU. So the whole unity issue - I mean, the whole point of the European Union is for Europe to present a unified and stronger voice. That seems to be really at risk now.
SIMON: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Brussels, thanks so much.
NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.