Migration funding should be 'innovative', Juncker tells Renzi

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2016 4:43 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission wants to find "innovative" financial resources to address the root causes of migration in Africa and elsewhere, the EU executive's president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Juncker's letter follows an Italian proposal for an EU "migration compact" aimed at stepping-up funding to bolster the economies of migrants' countries of origin, possibly financed by jointly issued European bonds.

Europe is grappling with its largest migration wave since World War Two, as the traditional flow of migrants from Africa is compounded by refugees fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and South Asia. More than a million people crossed illegally into Europe last year.

Renzi urged the EU to issue common bonds to fund a more ambitious migration policy in Africa - a funding method that is anathema to Germany, the EU's leading power.

"I agree with you on the need to look at innovative means to finance our external action in the field of migration," Juncker said in a letter to Renzi dated April 20, seen by Reuters. He did not specifically mention the sensitive idea of Eurobonds.

With a reduction of the migrant flow in the route from Turkey to Greece since last month's controversial EU-Turkey deal, Rome fears that larger flows of migrants may come to Italy from war-torn Libya and other North African countries.

While welcoming Renzi's proposals, Juncker underlined that there is already an EU-Africa fund, with a financial capacity of 1.8 billion euros ($2.03 billion), meant to address the issues raised by Italy. The fund was agreed between EU and African partners last November at a summit in Valletta, Malta.

Berlin, the biggest contributor to the EU budget, rejected the use of new EU funding following Renzi's letter.

Juncker said the Commission was working on a new document on external aspects of EU migration policy as a basis for discussion at the next EU leaders' summit on June 28-29.

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(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Paul Taylor)