Asylum and immigrationSpain's Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, who presided over the Summit, was keen to dispel the notion that measures agreed were repressive: "Fortress Europe is an irrelevance - immigration is a bonus if flows are managed", he said. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, described the outcome as "a good step forward from Tampere" (when the leaders initially agreed to create an Area of Freedom, Security and Justice) adding "there was not the same urgency about the issue then". Commission President Romano Prodi was pleased with the Conclusions, not surprisingly as EU leaders have broadly backed the Commission's plans: "We are clearly moving in the right direction". A Commission spokesman pointed out that "these measures would have been controversial five or ten years ago, but now it's obvious we need to work together on these issues".The EU leaders agreed to speed up implementation of the Tampere blueprint that was adopted in October 1999 but which has not yet been put into practice. Migration policy must strike a fair balance between integrating lawful residents, protecting refugees and acting resolutely to combat illegal immigration, they said, adding that "the legitimate aspiration to a better life has to be reconcilable with the reception capacity of the Union". They stressed the need to prevent abuse of the asylum system and to promote the return of rejected applicants more quickly. The Commission has been asked to report back to the Council in October on what EU funding is available "for repatriation of immigrants and rejected asylum-seekers", managing the external borders and asylum and migration projects in non-EU countries.Third countries.As the Summit progressed, the tone became increasingly conciliatory on the issue of how immigration policy should affect the EU's relations with third countries. Heads of State and Government finally agreed on "an integrated, comprehensive and balanced approach". The leaders say that countries should take back their own nationals who are illegally present in an EU Member State, and those who transited their territory en route to the EU. "The Union is prepared to provide the necessary technical and financial assistance for this purpose", they add. As for states who refuse to co-operate, this "could hamper the establishment of closer relations". If the Council agrees unanimously that co-operation has been insufficient, it may "adopt measures or positions under the Common Foreign and Security Policy and other EU policies, while...not jeopardising development co-operation objectives". Any future agreements with third countries should include a commitment on compulsory readmission of illegal immigrants, the Summit agreed.The United Kingdom, Germany and Spain had been pushing for a tougher line, but resistance from several Member States resulted in a stance that was as much "carrot", as it was "stick". Tony Blair, one of the original hard-liners, said afterwards "we have come to a sensible position. This was never about hitting poor countries, but we reserve the right to adopt appropriate measures if they fail to co-operate". Mr Prodi shared this view: "Our partners must understand that there has been a qualitative upgrading of the importance we attach to the migration component of our relations". He believed other states would understand that "but if for any reason our expectations are disappointed, it would be a mistake to take for granted that the overall relationship and the instruments that go with it will be unaffected". French President Jacques Chirac said he was very happy with the approach agreed, which was "as France had asked for - based on dialogue and incentives, not on sanctions". The Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, also steered away from the hard-line: "sanctions against governments are not going to work very well". Meanwhile German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder admitted "I would have liked more, but it wasn't possible".Amnesty welcomes pull back from sanctions.The human rights organisation Amnesty International has voiced its relief at the softening of the Council's stance as the summit progressed, in particular the ditching of the sanctions idea. "The threat of...

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