'Don't exaggerate immigration danger': EU chief

17th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned member states on Sunday not to exaggerate the threat of a wave of immigration from North Africa and urged them to respect European free movement rules.

"Of course there's a risk of migration, but we must not exaggerate it," the former Belgian leader told interviewers from the news network TV5 Monde, global radio broadcaster RFI and French daily Le Monde.

Mediterranean states like Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain have sounded the alarm about a rising tide of migrants fleeing the recent revolutions, fighting and political crises in North Africa.

While not on the front line in terms of new arrivals, France has pressured Italy not to allow Tunisians to cross its soil towards their border, as an internal EU frontier that is little controlled.

Van Rompuy admitted there is a problem, and said he had asked members to be ready to discuss the issue at the EU summit in Brussels on June 24, but urged members not to take unilateral action.

"Neither Italy, nor France has yet done anything illegal. That said, there is a danger of their not respecting the spirit of the Schengen treaty on free movement," he said.

Under the Schengen agreement passport controls were lifted between many core EU states -- including France and Italy.

While EU citizens enjoy free movement, immigrants and refugees from outside are supposed to declare themselves in the first European state they enter.

© 2011 AFP

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