BRUSSELS (Reuters) - France and Italy reached a preliminary agreement on Thursday on a proposal on migration that would lead to processing centres in willing European Union states, although the deal lacked support from other EU states, officials said.
French officials announced the initial deal after heated talks on migration at an EU summit in Brussels. But Malta, Spain and the Netherlands, who were initially said to be in favour, later rejected it, according to three diplomats.
An Italian government source said Rome would accept the agreement on migrant centres only if all EU states accepted it and if those centres were set up in several EU states. Now most migrants coming from Africa arrive in Italy.
Under the preliminary deal, ‘controlled centres’ would process asylum requests of migrants.
A few minutes after the French diplomats reported the agreement, an Italian government source said Italy would still block an overall deal on migration if it did not include reform of EU asylum rules, known as the Dublin regulation, a sharing of responsibility and costs on rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and more EU funds for Africa.
The complicated talks exposed deep divisions among EU countries on migration, with Italy’s new eurosceptic government threatening to veto agreements on other issues discussed by EU leaders on Thursday if no progress was made on migration.
Europe’s divisions over migration policy have undermined the unity of the European Union, threatened its border-free Schengen area and plunged German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition into turmoil.
Reporting by Richard Lough, Francesco Guarascio, Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop