[WATCH] Member states agree to take in 40,000 migrants from Italy, Greece

All member states, except for three, agree to take in 60,000 migrants from Italy and Greece • Joseph Muscat: “This decision sets an important precedent”

It took member states almost seven hours, heated discussions and emotional pleas to agree to the relocation of 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece and resettlement of 20,000 refugees outside the EU.

Visibly tired after a European Council that lasted a total of 10 hours, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat welcomed the agreement reached “as setting an important precedent”.

“It wasn’t an easy step and everyone had to make their positions clear. We found strong support by a number of countries that made this final agreement possible,” Muscat said.

The Council conclusions will drop the word ‘voluntary’ but neither does it include mandatory. However, it will state that all countries “will be taking in migrants”. The migrants will be shared over two years.

Exceptions for three countries – the UK, Denmark and Ireland – will be listed; the conclusions will also see a reference to the specifics of countries.

Hungary, already facing huge numbers, will not be taking in migrants from Italy and Greece.

Admitting that the agreement reached tonight was not a solution, Muscat said it was still “a strong sign”.

The Prime Minister argued that reaching an agreement over the 60,000 migrants – increasing the figure from 40,000 – would also show a certain element of solidarity by the EU.

“If we aren’t capable of finding a solution for 60,000 persons, how can we be taken seriously on other things?” he said.

Muscat added that there were issues of legalism and semantics [whether it should be mandatory or voluntary] but the countries finally agreed to help.

“The countries have chosen to help … but it was also clear that there weren’t much options other than solidarity has to be shown.”

The European Commission will now work out the distribution key.

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