Macron calls for EU emergency response system to control borders

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PARIS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The European Union needs an emergency response mechanism that a member state can trigger when the bloc's external borders are under threat, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday.

Migration crises along the EU's eastern flank this autumn underlined Europe's need to strengthen its ability to control who moves in and out of the bloc, the president said.

Only if Europe mastered its outside borders could free movement within the bloc's Schengen zone function properly, Macron added, as he set out a key reform plank of France's rotating presidency of the EU.

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"A sovereign Europe is for me above all a Europe capable of controlling its borders," Macron told a news conference.

It comes as thousands of migrants are stuck on the EU's eastern frontier, in what the Brussels says is a crisis Belarus engineered by distributing visas to would-be migrants in the Middle East, flying them in and pushing them across the bloc's border. Belarus denies the accusation.

Macron said the emergency mechanism would need to rely on the support of EU border agency Frontex, as well as reinforcements from national law enforcement agencies when needed.

"Often we are too slow to react," Macron said.

The rules governing movement across the Schengen zone's open borders also needed reworking, Macron said, adding that he wanted the bloc to have regular political meetings on migration just as it has on economic matters.

The bloc has been deeply divided for years in its response to immigration and how to police the common external borders of its Schengen area.

On the economy, the French president urged the bloc to rethink its budget framework and alter deficit rules to encourage post-pandemic investment and foster growth as the world seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. read more

"We must move from a Europe of cooperation within our borders to a Europe that is powerful in the world, fully sovereign, free in its choices and master of its destiny," Macron said.

France assumes the six-month rotating EU presidency on Jan 1.

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Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Michel Rose; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Stonestreet

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