According to the spokeswoman, the meeting addressed "three options." The first option stipulated "regional arrangements with coastal states in notably North Africa to ensure that you have an effective coordination of search-and-rescue activities."
This option provided for an involvement of the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which would asses migrants' need for international protection.
The second option provided for possible "regional arrangements between EU countries" to ensure larger predictability in terms of disembarkation, which also stipulates special procedures for identifying those in need for regional protection, Bertaud explained.
"The third option is arrangements, whereby external centers would be established in third countries to send back people who have already entered into the European Union. Of these three options, the third was definitively rejected yesterday as it is not in line with the European law or with the international law in the field of asylum," the spokeswoman told a briefing.
Bertaud stressed that the first two options could provide a fertile ground for further discussions, and their feasibility would be explored in more detail. The European Commission, in coordination with the UNCHR and the IOM, now intends to look into these possibilities and then will discuss the issue with the member states, she added.
The Commission, however, refused to provide any further details on who actually was the main opponent of the idea of sending migrants back to centers in third countries.
Following the meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that a definitive solution to the migration problem was unlikely to be found at the forthcoming EU summit, with the latter set to produce mainly bilateral agreements among the bloc members. Yet, after Sunday’s meeting, the majority of the EU leaders said that the bloc was now more focused on cooperation with the countries of migrants’ origin and transit rather than redistribution of asylum seekers across the union.