18 Dec 2015

Backing for boost to EU border forces

11:53 am on 18 December 2015

France and Germany have thrown their weight behind proposals for a European border guard force with powers to intervene to regulate migration.

Macedonian police cordon during clashes with refugees protesting against the building of a metal fence at the Greek-Macedonian border

Macedonian police cordon during clashes with refugees protesting against the building of a metal fence at the Greek-Macedonian border Photo: AFP

At an end-of-year summit in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said they supported the European Commission's proposal for a beefed up border force.

"We must equally respect the promises which we have already made - notably regarding refugees who need to be resettled," Mr Hollande added.

More than 900,000 people have arrived in Europe this year, prompting some states to build fences and introduce border controls in defiance of the EU's border-free Schengen area.

Leaders at the summit discussed the migration crisis for three hours and welcomed proposals from the Commission to create a European Border and Coast Guard that could intervene in crises to protect the common frontier of the Schengen zone.

European Council President Donald Tusk, chairing the summit, said the leaders had adopted final conclusions on migration policy, but the wording was not immediately made public.

The latest resettlement plan would see EU countries accept Syrian refugees directly from Turkey under a voluntary scheme.

It is hoped the plan would stop people making the dangerous sea journey to Greece and would be more palatable for EU members than obligatory quotas.

A report to be delivered to the summit says a €3bn ($NZD4.8bn) deal with Turkey has had little success reducing the flow of refugees and migrants to Greece.

But Mrs Merkel described Thursday's special meeting between Turkey and eight EU nations - including Belgium, Austria and Greece - as "very good".

She said interested member states could choose to join similar talks in the future, looking at how to reduce illegal migration and improve systems for legal migration.

- BBC / Reuters

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