Greece and Spain have agreed to take back asylum seekers already registered in those countries who are intercepted at the Austria-German border, Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed on Friday. However, no bilateral agreement had been made with Italy, Merkel added.
"What we achieved here together is perhaps more than I had expected," Merkel told reporters at the end of the summit. Merkel was asked if the agreements with Athens and Madrid met demands from her German conservative CSU coalition partners the Chancellor told reporters she believed they even surpassed them: "They are more than equivalent in their effect," she said.
The tentative agreement with Greece and Spain came on the sidelines of an EU leaders' summit that reached a breakthrough on migration. It will go into effect once operational details are worked out in the next four weeks, Merkel said.
Under the understanding with Greece and Spain, the two countries would be "ready to take back asylum seekers who in the future are identified by German authorities at the German-Austrian border" and who already have fingerprints in the EU's asylum database.
In return, Germany agreed to "gradually complete and close" asylum applications for families in Greece and Spain in order to promote family reunification. Germany also said EU border states such as Greece and Spain need additional financial help as well as the provision of police and asylum experts.