EU leaders reach agreement on asylum policy; 'A big step', Dutch PM says

Asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean sea (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vito Manzari). (Asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean sea (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vito Manzari))

After hours of difficult negotiations, the leaders of the 28 European Union member states reached an agreement on migration policy at a summit in Brussels, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council announced on Friday morning, reports.

"Everything was complicated", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said about the summit. "I am not going to say that the whole issue has now been resolved, but we have taken a big step."

The EU leaders agreed to established locked reception centers in the southern EU countries for asylum seekers arriving by boat, EU sources said, according to the newspaper. The centers will determine which asylum seekers are entitled to asylum, and they will then be spread over other EU countries. The asylum seekers will only go to countries that are willing to take them. In the longer term, the EU leaders hope to set up such reception centers outside the EU. 

Dutch Prime Minister Rutte did not want to speculate on how this policy will be interpreted right after the meeting. He did say that similar agreements on asylum seeker reception could be made with countries outside the EU. These agreements would be similar to the existing agreement with Turkey, he said, according to the newspaper.

The EU leaders also agreed to extend economic sanctions against Russia by six months. These sanctions were imposed on Russia four years ago because of Moscow's support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and the annexation fo the Crimea. The sanctions were set to expire on July 31st. The EU leaders link the measures to the Minks peace plan. As Russia isn't complying to the peace plan, the extension is not unexpected.

Among other things, the sanctions mean that a number of Russian energy companies, defense companies and banks do not have access to the European capital market. There is also restrictions on the export of technologically sensitive goods.