France: ‘Border separations show US and Europe don’t share same model of civilisation’

President Donald Trump's policy of separating migrants entering the US from Mexico from their children shows that the United States and Europe do not share the same "model of civilisation," France's government spokesman said Tuesday.

France: 'Border separations show US and Europe don't share same model of civilisation'

President Donald Trump's policy of separating migrants entering the US from Mexico from their children shows that the United States and Europe do not share the same “model of civilisation,” France's government spokesman said Tuesday.

“I don't want what's happening in the United States to happen in Europe, we don't have the same model of civilisation, clearly we do not share certain values,” spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told France 2 television.

Trump is facing mounting pressure over his policy of separating families that illegally cross the Mexican border, with reports showing dozens of  children being held in large metal enclosures.

“These images are obviously shocking, and obviously our job is to defend a European ideal, an ideal of peace, of freedom,” Griveaux said.

Trump has also riled European leaders by claiming that Europe had made a “big mistake” by letting in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and misery since 2015, saying he would not let the US become a “migrant camp”.

“We don't want what is happening with immigration in Europe to happen with us,” he tweeted on Monday.

Griveaux's response came ahead of a meeting in Berlin between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to work out a common EU response to the migrant influx.

The German leader is facing a backlash from within her own government on the issue, which has fuelled the rise of far-right and populist parties opposing immigration around Europe.

“I believe the core responsibility of my generation… is to defend European solidarity against populism, against all forms of populism, the far left and the far right,” Griveaux said.

“If everyone retreats behind their national borders, we won't succeed,” he said.

France has faced accusations of “hypocrisy” in recent days after President Emmanuel Macron criticised Italy for turning away the migrant rescue ship Aquarius.

Italy's new populist government responded by saying it would not “accept hypocritical lessons from countries that have preferred to look the other way on immigration”.

“The Italian government has never abandoned the almost 700 people aboard the Aquarius,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “After the refusal of Malta to allow the people aboard the Aquarius to disembark there, we received an unprecedented gesture of solidarity from Spain. The same cannot be said of France, which has often adopted much more rigid and cynical immigration policies.”



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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.