European Union countries have reached a major deal to revamp the bloc’s migration and asylum policy, Euronews has reported.
The deal represents the first breakthrough of its kind after years of divisive and bitter debates that have pitted countries against each other.
Countries on the EU’s southern edge, including Italy and Greece, have long demanded more help to cope with the numbers of people arriving on their shores. Richer countries, including Germany and Sweden, have balked at how many head on to their soil.
On Thursday, Italy and Greece demanded last-minute changes to the proposed agreement, pushing for a cut in the number of people each state would take on and laxer rules to send people back to countries outside of the EU.
Under the deal that eventually came together, each country would be responsible for a set number of people, but would not necessarily have to take them in.
Countries unwilling to receive irregular migrants and refugees arriving ad hoc to the EU would be able to help their hosting peers through cash – around 20,000 euros per person – equipment or personnel.
The new rules were endorsed by a margin wider than anticipated, with only Hungary and Poland opposing the final draft.
Sweden’s minister of migration, Maria Malmer Stenergard, said the deal “is a historic step.”
EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, added: “This is a great, great achievement, showing that it’s possible to work together on migration.”