BARCELONA (Reuters) – Spain is committed to a joint European response to illegal immigration, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in an interview published on Sunday, hours before EU leaders meet in Brussels for an informal summit on the subject.
Sanchez pushed the migration agenda shortly after he took office earlier this month by accepting the Aquarium, a boat from an NGO that was transporting 629 blockaded immigrants in Italy and Malta, triggering an international crisis over how the EU deals with illegal immigration.
"There can not be a unilateral response, with Aquarius we made a gesture of solidarity, but a humanitarian crisis is one thing and the migration policy is another, and that migration policy must have a joint European response," said Sánchez.
The current crisis on migration policy can be traced, in part, to the lack of European "solidarity" with countries like Italy, which have borne the brunt of illegal immigration, Sánchez said.
On Saturday, the day after the interview, Sánchez met with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Paris, where both leaders showed their support for a plan to prosecute asylum seekers in closed centers on European soil.
Sánchez also described his legislative agenda in his first journalistic interview since he took office after a dramatic expulsion of former Conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Sánchez, whose Socialists have only 84 seats in a 350-seat parliament and can fight to repeal all legislation passed by the previous government, suggested reforming previous laws and introducing new legislation to protect vulnerable workers.
In particular, he referred to the workers of the Deliveroo food delivery company and to the so-called "concert economy".
Spain would increase social security contributions to finance the pension system with difficulties, Sánchez said.
Among other policies discussed there was a proposal to introduce euthanasia in 2020, measures to address the gender wage gap and the removal of the remains of former dictator Francisco Franco from a Civil War memorial site near Madrid.
DIALOGUE WITH CATALONIA
Sánchez, who will meet with Catalan leader Quim Torra on July 9, said his administration will seek to reduce tensions with the restive region, following a failed attempt to secede last year. "The days when the government aggravated the problems with Catalonia are over, we need to go step by step, rebuilding the trust and loyalty that has been broken over the years of conflict between Madrid and the Catalan regional government," he said.
Sánchez said that imprisoned separatist leaders currently awaiting trial in Madrid on charges related to the failed escape would be transferred to facilities in Catalonia, a key demand of the Catalan pro-independence government. It is not clear when the move could be made.
"My position is that the most reasonable thing would be, once the initial investigation is completed, that [the prisoners] moves in. The reasonable solution is that the prisoners, and especially those in pretrial detention, are close to their families and their legal teams, "he said.
Sam Edwards report; David Evans edition