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'Solidarity cannot be voluntary': Portugal begins talks on EU migration pact

FILE PHOTO: The new Portugal's Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita is seen during the no-confidence motion over forest fires at the parliament in Lisbon, Portugal October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes/File Photo

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal started a round of talks with ministers from various European Union (EU) nations on the new pact to tackle the bloc’s long-standing migration issues, its government said on Tuesday.

As part of its six-month rotating EU presidency, which began this month, Portugal held an initial consultation with Greece, a country on the frontline of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015 and 2016.

Last September, the European Commission initially put forward a proposal for the migration pact during Germany’s EU presidency. The most sensitive part of the pact obliges each member state to host some refugees. A final deal on the pact is yet to be reached.

In a statement, Portugal’s Internal Affairs Ministry said problems related to migration from outside the EU could only be solved with “solidarity between countries” but highlighted “such solidarity cannot be voluntary”.

“Flexible” but “mandatory solidarity” between EU countries is the key concept Portugal is pushing for, the ministry said, adding solutions must be found to two main issues: regular migration flows and migration crises.

The minister in charge, Eduardo Cabrita, said he would also hold meetings with government officials in Spain, Italy and Malta, where migrants mainly arrive, but also with reluctant countries such as Poland and Hungary.

“The goal of these meetings (...) is to find points of convergence between member states and the paths that will allow us to overcome aspects that generate less consensus in the pact,” said the ministry.

Talks will take place ahead of a meeting between Internal Affairs ministers on Jan. 28.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Aurora Ellis