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World

EU Leaders Meet To Discuss Migration Policies

NOEL KING, HOST:

Leaders of the European Union were up all night in Brussels in a combative meeting to hammer out a deal on migration. Now, this is an agreement that affects not only the future of people trying to escape war and oppression and poverty. It affects the future of the EU itself. What happens there will also help determine whether Angela Merkel remains the chancellor of Germany. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Brussels covering this summit. Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Hello.

KING: All right. So let's start with Angela Merkel. She has a lot riding on what happens at this two-day summit. Remind us, what's going on with her in Germany?

NELSON: Well, back in Germany, she has a very rebellious interior minister who belongs to her conservative Bavarian party, and they're facing a challenge from the far-right Alternative for Germany. So what they've done is made migration a key issue. And what this interior minister is now threatening to do is, on Sunday, close the borders of Germany sort of in rebellion. I mean, you know, without her permission, against - or, I should say, to migrants, or most migrants who are trying to get to Germany. So that's a real problem, and it would force her to fire him, which in turn could make the government collapse, which would lead to new elections and end her career.

KING: So did this plan that they came up with in Brussels last night put an end to her political woes? Did it solve her problems?

NELSON: Well, we'll have to see. The conversation she's going to be having with that interior minister and the Bavarian party doesn't take place until Sunday. But, certainly, the fact that the EU is taking a harder line now, at least vocally, about migration should play in her favor. And, certainly, Merkel sounded a lot happier than she did yesterday when she was in the German parliament and snapped at her hecklers who oppose her humanitarian stance on refugees.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She says that here in Brussels, after this deal was struck, that she's optimistic and that she and other EU leaders will continue to bridge their differences, but that they have an awful lot of work to do. And they actually do.

KING: All right. Well, this session last night lasted more than nine hours, which is quite the marathon. What did they actually - what did the leaders actually decide on?

NELSON: Well, it was more about intention and expressing solidarity rather than any kind of firm actions, but they did talk about the need for screening centers on European soil for migrants who come by boat so that the pressure is eased on Italy and Greece and Spain and other countries where these migrants get to when they go by boat. But the thing is, it's a voluntary thing and, so far, no countries are at least expressing an interest in hosting these centers. Another key thing was that they talked about needing to reaffirm their commitment with Turkey, which has been taking a lot of refugees and asylum-seekers and migrants, and also potentially setting up centers for asylum-seekers in Africa. So basically, they would file their claims for the European Union in centers there. But again, a lot of we should do this, we're thinking about doing is, we agree on doing this, but not really any details.

KING: And, just briefly, you know, you mentioned Italy. Italy was threatening to scuttle this entire summit if it didn't get its concerns about migration addressed. Is Italy calmed down for the moment?

NELSON: Certainly, they've calmed down. But if they were looking for some exact relief - which they do need. They do receive a lot of refugees that are coming across the sea - they didn't get it. And so, you know, but, the fact that there is actually an EU agreement, that certainly is something that Italy welcomes.

KING: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson. Thanks, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.