Following a heated argument between Italy and France over a refugee rescue boat, European interior ministers praised a European Union plan to better coordinate the handling of migrant arrivals.
A new EU clash over the politically charged matter has been avoided through crisis negotiations in Brussels after France accused Italy of violating the law of the sea by turning away the NGO vessel.
All parties agreed that the Friday discussion had been fruitful, but Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan, whose nation is currently in charge of the EU, said that, in order to reach a lasting resolution, everyone had also concurred that "more can and must be done."
The "tough conversation" would be continued by the ministers in a previously scheduled meeting on December 8, he said.
Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission and the commissioner in charge of "promoting our European way of life," declared that Europe could no longer accept just another band-aid fix.
He noted that prior crises had been used by "populistic and Europhobe elements," adding, "We cannot continue working event-by-event, ship-by-ship, incident-by-incident, route-by-route."
Even though there are still significantly fewer asylum seekers than in 2015 and 2016, the issue has already jeopardized a temporary agreement to divide new arrivals more fairly around the 27-nation bloc.
No longer "ad hoc" planning
The argument has brought the matter to the forefront in Brussels, which has been striving for years to come up with and implement a new policy for sharing responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers.
A Norwegian-flagged NGO ship carrying 234 migrants who had been rescued from the Mediterranean was refused permission to land earlier this month by Italy's new government, led by far-right politician Georgia Meloni.
The Ocean Viking eventually made it to France, where officials suspended a prior agreement to accept 3,500 asylum seekers who were stranded in Italy in response to Rome's stance.
Paris called the emergency meeting of interior ministers from the 27 member states on Friday as a result of the dispute, which threatened the EU's temporary stop-gap fix.
Commissioner Schinas acknowledged that the Ocean Viking situation was somewhat improvised while justifying his commission's new strategy for better coordinating rescue operations and migrant and refugee arrivals.
Twenty particular actions are planned. A significant political accord has been reached. Everyone is dedicated to making efforts to prevent a situation like this from occurring again.
Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister of France, stated that Rome "does not take the boats and does not recognize the law of the sea," thus there is no need for France to welcome migrants who have been relocated from Italy.
The Ocean Viking incident was downplayed by Darmanin's Italian counterpart, Matteo Piantedosi, who claimed that the meeting was "not dealing with particular instances or operational management."
The ministers might resume their conversation at the meeting on December 8 due to a "convergence of positions," he claimed after shaking hands with his French counterpart.
The previous strategy was developed in response to complaints from Mediterranean nations like Italy and Greece, which are closer to North African ports, that they were taking on an excessive amount of responsibility for migrants.
Twelve EU nations agreed to relocate 8,000 asylum seekers, with France and Germany taking 3,500 each. However, just 117 relocations have taken place as of this writing.
The European Commission published a new action plan on Monday to better manage arrivals on the central Mediterranean maritime route to restore the mechanism.
Aid organizations did not like it. Oxfam's Stephanie Pope, a migration expert, described Brussels' proposal as "simply another reshuffle of old concepts that do not work."
"The action plan provided by member states is excellent, but it lacks new ideas, and thus it will not solve the migration problem," a European diplomat added.
Nevertheless, the ministers approved it, and Schinas claimed that it should avert further crises as Europe strives once more to construct a world migration plan that would be enforceable by EU law.
Additionally, Schinas emphasized that in their national search and rescue zones, EU member states are already required by international maritime law to "perform what is necessary, which is save people's lives."
Following the idea, EU state authorities and humanitarian NGOs would work more closely together to coordinate rescue efforts for migrants aboard overloaded, improvised boats.
Additionally, Brussels would collaborate more closely with Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt to prevent unauthorized immigrants from ever boarding smuggling vessels.
Other EU capitals are more concerned about land routes through the Balkans, while France and Italy debate high-profile examples of dramatic maritime rescues in the central Mediterranean.
The EU border force Frontex estimates that since the year's beginning, about 130,000 unauthorized immigrants have entered the union, a hike of 160 percent.