Migration, economic recovery and the EU budget took centre stage at Wednesday's debate ahead of the 24-25 October European Council summit. Several group leaders called for a legal migration policy and more resources to fight illegal immigration, chiding countries for their timid approach. Leaders of the four largest groups expressed deep frustration at what they called the "gaming tactics" of some member states over the EU budget.
Joseph Daul (EPP, FR) heavily criticised member states for always calling for more action at EU level but then failing to provide the necessary financial resources. "I am totally fed up with the behaviour of Council in these last two weeks on the Multi-annual Financial Framework... Member states need to be realistic and sincere", he said.
"It is ironic how the Council comes with enormous words on the digital economy and then cuts its budget" said Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT). On migration, Mr Swoboda pulled no punches. "The European Council conclusions are cynical. People are dying all the time and these conclusions say that countries will return to the issue in June 2014! It is shameful. What we need is a sensible migration policy."
Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) called on countries to stop the "cynical little game" they were playing with the EU budget. On migration, he expressed disbelief that after attempting to develop a common policy for fifteen years, countries were only able to come up with these "shameful European Council conclusions". He called for more resources for Frontex and Eurosur, a policy for legal migration and a renewed policy for North Africa.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens, FR) also called for a legal migration policy and warned that the only reason Frontex had seemed to be working was because deals had previously been struck with North Africa's dictators to keep would-be migrants at bay.
Martin Callanan (ECR, UK) called for action to open up markets and cut red tape rather than defending "outdated obsessions" and "an EU of the NGOs, by the NGOs for the NGOs, defending their vested interests", with an excessive focus on social and environmental issues.
"Is the 'outdated obsession' you refer to that of people wishing to live decent lives?" asked Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE), in response to Mr Callanan's words. On the EU budget, Ms Zimmer said that much more clarity was needed so as not to deceive people. Like the leaders of larger groups, she also called for a legal migration policy.
Nigel Farage (EFD, UK) warned that many failed to understand the allure of Eurosceptic groups. "People want an EU which collaborates and trades but not an EU flag and passport. What we defend is legitimate and democratic", he said.
Laurence Stassen (NI, NL) focused on banking union, saying that the Dutch could not accept a system which was about having the problems of the South paid for by the North.
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