VIENNA – Several interior ministers of European Union countries, among them France, Spain and Italy, were meeting with representatives from African countries on Friday with the aim of fomenting cooperation on migration.
The European commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopulous, told the press upon his arrival to the talks in the Austrian capital Vienna that the goal of the informal meeting was to strengthen cooperation with countries in the region.
“Both Northern African countries and the European Union were confronted with the same challenges and we share the same duty to address migration and the security issues,” said the diplomat.
He said he hoped Friday’s talks would “pave the way and will inaugurate a new chapter in our relations.”
Austria’s interior minister, Herbert Kickl, said European and African countries shared “common interests” when it came to migration.
Kickl, from the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, said both sides had to have a “great interest” in the EU having an “effective” border protection policy and putting an end to the “current human trafficking business model.”
He referred to the idea of creating platforms in North Africa where migrants and refugees who are intercepted at sea trying to reach Europe could be sent to, something that Avramopulous considers unrealistic.
Austria is one of the EU members that insists on setting up mechanisms to ensure that migrants rescued in the Mediterranean are returned to the countries in North Africa where they came from.
Due to the informal nature of the meeting, the majority of countries did not send ministers, so no concrete decisions were expected to be made.
The meeting came a week before an informal EU leaders summit in Salzburg, which would also focus on migration.
Some 74,388 people have arrived to Spain, Greece and Italy by sea routes so far this year, while 1,642 deaths have been recorded, according to the latest United Nations data.