June 23 (UPI) — French President Emmanuel Macron said Saturday European Union nations that refuse to accept migrants should be financially sanctioned.
Macron, who was elected last year as France’s leader, made the comments at a news conference in Paris with Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“We cannot have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants,” Macron said. “I am in favor of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation.”
He stated his views one day before a summit of 15 European leader in Brussels, Belgium, about the migration issue. All 28 EU members are scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday.
“National solutions can flatter some egos, but they’ll bring less-than-desirable results,” Macron said. “We must keep our calm and not yield to the extremes.
He was referring to Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has refused to accept humanitarian ships carrying migrants to Italian ports.
Spain took in more than 600 migrants from one humanitarian boat refused by Italy. Sanchez said his government is talking with France and Italy about other boats Italy won’t accept.
“I can guarantee that the position the Spanish government will maintain this Sunday and next Thursday and Friday is to give a European perspective to this migration issue,” Sanchez said during the news conference. “The Spanish government will put special emphasis on bilateral cooperation, on cooperation and dialog with origin and transit countries.
The two leaders also said they support the creation of closed reception centers where migrants would be held as they asylum claims are considered. They would be near where migrants would first enter a European nation.
The only centers where applications are processed are few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.
“Once on European soil, we are in favor of setting up closed centers in accordance with the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] … so that each country takes people who are entitled to asylum in an organised way,” Macron said.
Migrants not entitled to asylum should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron said.
Since the start of 2016, about 300,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores. Also, France and Austria have reimposed border controls to prevent them from reaching northern European countries.