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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
EU agrees tighter immigration controls
Immigrants
Immigration has become an issue across Europe
Measures to curb illegal immigration have been agreed at a European Union summit in the Spanish city of Seville.

But leaders of the 15 member states stopped short of imposing controversial economic sanctions on poor countries which do not co-operate with their campaign.

Instead, they spoke about offering "positive incentives" to those countries which attempted to crack down on people smugglers and were prepared to re-admit their citizens.

Immigration accord
Incentives to poor countries to assist
Joint operations on EU's external border
Deadline for accord on asylum policy
Members also agreed to establish joint operations on the EU's external borders by the end of the year, although this will not amount to the full-scale border guard that some countries wanted.

They have also set deadlines in 2002 and 2003 for final decisions on establishing a single set of standards for dealing with asylum applications across the union.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Seville says this has been a summit where few countries really got what they wanted, and where many big decisions were pushed further down the road.

Far-right fears

Immigration shot to the top of the EU's agenda following the success of several far-right parties in a string of recent elections across Western Europe, all of which campaigned on anti-immigration platforms.

While many mainstream politicians believe the only way to stem the rise of the far-right is to clamp down on immigration, demographic experts warn that in fact the bloc needs more migrants to boost a waning birth rate.

Britain and Spain had championed the idea of economic threats against third countries which did not do their bit to prevent illegal immigration into the EU, a proposal which had also been endorsed by Germany and Italy.


Graphic showing numbers of asylum seekers across Europe

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said the EU had nonetheless reserved the right to take "measures and positions" against third countries which did not comply with the organisation's wishes.

He did not provide details of what these measures might be.

But several countries, notably France and Sweden, condemned the measures as "counterproductive" and were even described as "stupid" by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

They argued that making already poor countries poorer could only increase the number of people wanting to leave.

Mr Persson greeted the decision to leave out sanctions.

"If a very poor country has problems with re-admission of refugees, you don't help them by taking aid away or making their trade less favourable," he said after the summit had closed.

New members

EU 2004 hopefuls
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Hungary
Latvia
Lithuania
Malta
Poland
Slovakia
Slovenia
The EU also reaffirmed its commitment to enlarge its membership with up to 10 new members - mainly former Communist countries.

According to reports, Brussels plans to have formulated a financial package to offer the candidate states by the end of November, which will allow time for negotiations before a major EU summit in December.

Membership talks will be concluded with the 10 early applicants at the Copenhagen summit, with the hope that they could join the EU by the end of the 2004.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"No deal on the issue of the Red Cross refugee camp at Sangatte"
Margaret Lally, The Refugee Council
"We would have preferred to have seen less emphasis on fortress Europe"

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22 Jun 02 | Europe
22 Jun 02 | UK Politics
22 Jun 02 | Europe
21 Jun 02 | Europe
22 Jun 02 | South Asia
21 Jun 02 | Europe
21 Jun 02 | Business
20 Jun 02 | Europe
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