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EU Summit: Divided EU leaders reach agreement on migration BLUE

EU Summit: Divided EU leaders reach agreement on migration BLUE

Extended talks lasted through the night and only wrapped up on Friday morning (29 June).

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads a month-old populist and anti-immigration government, had vetoed joint statements for the entire agenda of the European Union summit until his demands were met.

Former law professor Conte, until recently a virtual political unknown, came to Brussels emboldened by the announcement of an upcoming visit to US President Donald Trump, who has hailed Rome's tough stance, and who himself blocked the conclusions of a recent G7 leaders meeting on trade.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had been under intense pressure to find a breakthrough to stave off a government crisis at home.

While Italy pushed for its European counterparts' greater support, other leaders were not keen to revise European rules that require asylum seekers to be processed in the country where they first arrive.

European Union leaders struck the agreement at their summit in Belgium overnight Thursday.

"EU28 leaders have agreed on #euco (European Council) conclusions incl. migration", Tusk said on Twitter.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", an Italian source added.

European Union sources described the talks as "virulent", according to the French news agency.

"We got a European solution and a work of co-operation", said French President Emmanuel Macron.

"Evertyhing is voluntary which is what Viktor Orban and Giuseppe Conte wanted", Ryan Heath, Political Editor, Politico news website said, referring to the leaders of Hungary and Italy.

He warned he might veto the conclusions on migration before later hardening his position to block all the conclusions, including on security and defence, jobs, growth and economic competitiveness.

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The agreed language remains vague.

He said having the Libyan coast guard involved simply further endangered vulnerable migrants.

"The EU will continue to stand by Italy and other frontline Member States in this respect".

He said that what was significant for Malta was the fact that 28 member states had agreed on two points: that all ships working in the Mediterranean must abide by global rules and that rescue vessels must allow the Libyan coast guard do its job.

The EU had pledged 6 billion Euro ($7.44 billion) in funding for the refugees, and promised to mobilize the second 3 billion Euro ($3.72 billion) tranche by the end of 2018.

They also agreed to tighten their external border and increase financing for Turkey, Morocco and other North African states to prevent migration to Europe.

And there was a financial promise to channel more aid to migrant producing countries.

"We found an agreement. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of worldwide law and without creating a pull factor".

Mr Orban was re-elected on an anti-immigration platform earlier this year after more than one million migrants, many of which were fleeing war in Syria and the Middle East, made the long journey to Europe through the "Balkan route". He has threatened to start turning away migrants who have already registered elsewhere from the border in his home state.

In a final statement full of convoluted language created to appease the divergent views, the leaders agreed to restrict migrant moves within the bloc but made clear virtually all of their pledges would be carried out on a "voluntary basis" by member states.

"We will welcome any outcome that leads to a more collaborative and harmonised approach to asylum, also one that has at its core and priority saving lives at sea", said Charlie Yaxley of the refugee agency UNHCR.