France and Germany oppose proposals to help Italy and Greece cope with migrants

(Reuters, AP)Key European Union nations France and Germany are opposed to new EU proposals to help Italy and Greece cope with a massive influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

The European Commission proposed last week to ease pressure on Italy and Greece, which are struggling to deal with thousands of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats from Libya, through an emergency scheme to redistribute 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers throughout the European Union.

Under the plan, Germany and France, two of the EU’s biggest states, would together take nearly 40 percent of the 40,000 migrants.

The French and German interior ministers said in a statement Monday that the formula “should take more properly into account the efforts already made by member states regarding international protection, and other forms of assistance.”

The statement, together with concerns expressed by Spain and eastern European states, suggest the EU faces a tough fight agreeing how to share out the 40,000 migrants.

The Commission will propose a permanent system late this year for use during high migration flows but the ministers insist that it should “remain temporary and exceptional.

The statement highlighted the efforts France and Germany are already making, pointing out that nearly three-quarters of asylum applications in the EU are made in five member states – Germany, France, Sweden, Italy and Hungary.

Ministers Bernard Cazeneuve and Thomas de Maiziere said the EU’s emergency mechanism “must be founded on two equally important principles: responsibility and solidarity. We believe that the balance between these two principles has not yet been reached in the proposal presented by the Commission.”

More than 5,000 migrants trying to reach Europe have been saved from boats in distress in the Mediterranean since Friday, EU authorities say.

Thousands of people, mostly from war-torn African and Middle Eastern countries, have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year.

Britain, Denmark and Ireland have exemptions on EU matters on immigration and Britain has said it will not participate in the relocation scheme or a separate EU plan to resettle 20,000 refugees from outside the bloc.