The meeting had been convened at the request of Paris, which accepted on an “exceptional basis” on November 11 the disembarkation of the 234 migrants from the Ocean Viking, after the refusal of the far-right Italian government of Giorgia Meloni to welcome this humanitarian vessel long stranded off the Italian coast.

On his arrival, the French Minister Gérald Darmanin had repeated that France would not welcome asylum seekers arriving in Italy as long as Rome did not respect “the law of the sea”.

The emergency action plan, proposed Monday by the European Commission and endorsed by the ministers, proposes 20 measures, in particular to strengthen cooperation with countries such as Tunisia, Libya or Egypt in order to prevent departures and increase returns of irregular migrants.

It also provides for better coordination and an exchange of information between States and NGOs rescuing migrants at sea, and intends to “promote discussions within the International Maritime Organization” (IMO) on “guidelines for vessels carrying out rescue operations at sea”.

The “southern Mediterranean countries must also open their ports” to migrant rescue ships “which cruise in their territorial waters”, underlined Gérald Darmanin.

– “Not a definitive solution” –

“The Ocean Viking crisis was a bit of improvisation,” commented Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas. There, “we have twenty specific actions, an important political agreement, everyone is committed to working not to reproduce this kind of situation”, he commented at the end of the meeting, which he described as “positive”.

But “this is not the final solution”, he acknowledged, calling on member states to advance negotiations on a reform of migration and asylum in the EU, which have stalled for more than two year.

The emergency plan also intends to relaunch a temporary European solidarity mechanism approved in June, at the initiative of France, which then held the presidency of the Council of the EU.

A dozen countries then voluntarily undertook, to relieve the Mediterranean states, to welcome over a year some 8,000 asylum seekers arriving in these countries, France and Germany each taking 3,500.

But the Ocean Viking crisis led Paris to suspend its “relocations” from Italy.

“We must get out of a situation where the same States are called upon to receive ships and carry out relocations from other Member States. France will resume its relocations when this is the case”, tweeted Gérald Darmanin at the end. Of the reunion.

Italian Minister Matteo Piantedosi for his part claimed to have noted a “convergence of positions” during the meeting, specifying that he had “cordially greeted” his French counterpart.

The latter invited him to come to Paris before a next meeting of interior ministers scheduled for December 8 in Brussels.

– Ukrainians –

Migration is back on the European agenda, while irregular entries at the Union’s external borders are on the rise (280,000 in the first ten months of the year, 77%).

The surge is particularly strong via the Balkan route (168% over this period), and the Commission is preparing another action plan to try to stem this increase.

The numbers do not reach the level of the refugee crisis of 2015-2016. But the possibility of a new wave of arrivals this winter of Ukrainians, who are for millions of them deprived of electricity because of the Russian strikes, also feeds European concerns.

Greek Interior Minister Notis Mitarachi has meanwhile complained that Turkey is not respecting a 2016 migration agreement providing in particular for it to take back migrants who are not entitled to asylum. He also felt that the voluntary solidarity mechanism was “not sufficient”, calling for a “compulsory” solution.

For her part, Belgian Minister Nicole De Moor also called for “solidarity for Member States like Belgium which are doing more than their share but have seen their reception capacities saturated by secondary flows for months”.