EU end-of-year summit focuses on migration crisis

The EU end-of-year-summit will focus on the migration crisis, the fight against terrorism and the British in/out referendum among others

The end-of-year summit currently underway in Brussels, will see European leaders discussing Europe’s migration crisis.

Over 900,000 people have arrived in Europe this year, prompting states to build fences and re-introduce border controls in defiance of the EU's border-free Schengen area, with the November Paris attacks further heightening security concerns in member states.

Upon their arrival at the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said they supported the European Commission's proposal for a tougher border force, while respecting already made promises to resettle some refugees.

The latest resettlement scheme recommended some days ago, would see EU countries accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey under a voluntary scheme, and the plan seeks to stop people making the dangerous sea journey to Greece. However some countries are still opposed to this idea.

According to the BBC however, efforts to relocate 160,000 refugees already in Europe are moving extremely slowly with only around 200 actually being transferred from one country to another so far. Furthermore, a report to be delivered to the summit says a €3bn deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into Europe has had little success, with about 4,000 people arriving from Turkey on a daily basis since the accord reached on November 29.

Reuters reports that this marks a "slight reduction" from the 5,000-6,000 seen earlier in that month, but it adds that the decrease may, be attributed to other factors, like the cold winter months which always act as deterrents to potential refugees.

However, according to reports, Merkel described Thursday's special meeting between Turkey and eight EU nations ahead of the EU summit - as "very good". She said interested member states could choose to join similar talks in the future, looking at how to reduce illegal migration and improve systems for legal migration.

Leaders will also give their first reaction to the EU commission’s proposal to beef up external border protection with a new border guard agency to be deployed in emergency situations to border sections under pressure without the consent of the member state concerned.

Reports show that the proposal faces resistance from countries, particularly from Hungary and Poland, as it requires member states to partly give up a core national sovereignty - border protection, however, the commission argues that quick EU help is needed in crisis situations even when the member state is reluctant or unable to act, as in the recent case of Greece.

Other issues on the agenda include the fight against terrorism, the referendum in the UK and the single market and monetary union among others.

Writing in his summit invitation, European Council President Donald Tusk stressed the need to keep migration and terror as separate issues, after the two issues started being conflated given reports showing that at least two of the Paris attackers used the migrant route to travel to France

"The protection of our external borders is not intended to scare off those who flee wars or persecution," he said in the invitation.

The summit will also discuss British efforts to renegotiate its membership of the EU ahead of its 2017 in/out referendum, with Merkel stressing the "enormous importance" of avoiding a British exit but saying she is not prepared to give in to all of British Prime Minister David Cameron's demands for reform.

The BBC reports that Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic said on Thursday that they would reject any British demand to change EU laws that would lead to discrimination of their citizens or limit their freedom of movement.

 "We want a fair deal with Britain and this fair deal has to be a fair deal with other countries," the BBC reports Juncker saying ahead of the summit.

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