BRUSSELS: European interior ministers have been invited to emergency talks in Helsinki on Wednesday to seek to break the cycle of crises that erupt after each Mediterranean migrant rescue.
Refugee and migrant arrivals on Europe’s southern shores have dropped off sharply since 2015, but the issue is still a hot political topic dividing Europe’s capitals.
Italy’s populist government has refused to allow rescue ships carrying people saved from the sea to dock, and frontline states want other EU members to take in more arrivals.
European interior ministers are due in the Finnish capital for a regular EU council on Thursday, but have now been invited to a special dinner the previous evening for crisis talks.
Decrying previous “ad hoc” efforts, Finland’s interior minister and meeting host Maria Ohisalo called for “solid arrangements following search and rescue operations.”
“This approach will have to be built on shared responsibility involving a sufficiently large number of member states,” she said.
Officials said the emergency talks were called at the suggestion of France and Germany, and that it was not immediately clear if Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini would attend.
“Our purpose will be to commit to a joint line of action and define the next steps among this coalition of the willing,” Ohisalo said, in an invitation letter seen by AFP.
A European official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the dinner was an “emergency meeting” and that a group of members willing to accept migrants must be found soon.
“We need to agree a mechanism to take until the end of the year to avoid a political or humanitarian crisis over summer,” he said.
Italy, largely at Salvini’s direction, has taken a tough line on NGO rescue ships attempting to dock with rescued migrants and refugees, two of which recently made forced landings. -- AFP