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EU leaders pull up drawbridge to Fortress Europe

Published on June 16, 2006

16 June 2006

BRUSSELS – European Union leaders pulled up the drawbridge to Fortress Europe on Friday by adopting even tougher rules to curb flows of illegal immigrants into the 25-nation bloc.

Reflecting growing EU anxieties over the number of foreigners seeking entry into Europe, Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels that immigrants must do more to integrate into their host societies.

Austria is current holder of the EU presidency.

Immigrants must adhere to European values if they want to settle in the EU, said Schuessel, adding: “There are certain things that lie at the heart of Europe and if people want to be part of Europe they must sign up to this.

“It is very important for somebody coming to our countries to learn the language and sign up to the values, the human rights, the position of women, the rule of law,” Schuessel.

“There is no compromise on this,” he warned.

With yet more illegal migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe – this time Africans through Spain’s Canary Islands – EU leaders agreed to beef up patrols at the bloc’s external borders.

The measures approved include provisions for national police forces to step up joint monitoring of the bloc’s sea and land frontiers.

EU leaders pledged to strengthen co-operation on migration with African and neighbouring countries, vowing to engage in a “balanced dialogue” on migration and development with the continent.

EU governments will also work together to set up common centres to process visa applications and collect biometric identifiers such as finger prints, iris scans and the shape of faces.

The measures prompted immediate criticism from human rights groups.

Instead of debating the real issues of immigration, “Europe is just pushing for heavier policing of the migration floods,” said Amnesty International’s EU director Dick Oosting.

Declarations adopted at the EU summit “have no reference to human rights at all,” he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. EU leaders’ decisions meant that “people really in need won’t have a chance to be accepted as asylum seekers,” he cautioned.

The right to asylum is guaranteed by the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. But this treaty is not legally binding.

Also, national governments remain reluctant to cede power to the European Commission on issues of asylum and immigration, making policies across the bloc less coherent than a generation ago.

The conservative governments of Denmark and Austria have introduced tougher immigration measures in recent months to keep the support of populist right-wing parties.

France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany recently adopted new laws which oblige would-be immigrants to study the language and culture of the host country.

Struggling to cope with the flow of Africans into the Canary Islands, Spain has become the latest EU country to appeal for decisive action by the bloc.

Last year, Madrid also turned to Brussels for aid after refugees stormed the Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco.

Malta has also recently complained that the EU has failed to provide adequate support in dealing with a stream of migrants taxing the infrastructure of the small island.

The European Commission is currently trying to compile a list of “safe countries of origin” which would allow the bloc to refuse asylum seekers from regions which the bloc considers as risk-free.

Demography experts slam the EU for not having a proper joint migration policy, arguing that the bloc needs immigrants to compensate for an ageing population and a decline in birth rates.


Subject: German news