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Tuesday, July 8, 2008
International

EU close to deal on new immigration guidelines

EU interior ministers pushed Monday for a rapid agreement on new guidelines for controlling immigration, rejecting concerns that the plan would create a fortress Europe.

"It is a good proposal for a common position for everybody," said Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer as he arrived for informal EU talks in the French Riviera resort city of Cannes.

The "European Pact on Immigration and Asylum" sets out principles for the EU to manage migration, fight illegal immigration and help development in poor countries that people are leaving or travelling through to get to Europe.

France, which took over the bloc's rotating presidency on July 1, wants to have the guidelines wrapped up by October, so they can be endorsed by EU leaders.

"I hope that even today we will be able to reach a political agreement on this pact that could be finalised during the French presidency," said Greek Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

"It is a plan, a framework for immigration policy that is absolutely necessary for Europe and for the rest of the world," he said.

Even Spain, which has put up most resistance to the pact and forced France to remove "integration contracts" making immigrants learn the language of their new home, said the document now largely respects its system.

"We are satisfied, we believe that this recognises the major part of our model of immigration," said Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba.

Others insisted that the 27 nations were not erecting ever higher walls even though Europe has had to increase security on its borders with the outside world, in exchange for passport-free travel inside.

"I can't see any walls around Europe," said German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. "There are six million illegal immigrants in Europe. We have to fight illegal immigration and supervise legal migration."

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