Spain and France works out joint plan to fight illegal immigration

Spain and France said Monday they will present a joint initiative for the European Union to combat illegal immigration by seeking economic development in African countries that are the main source of the influx.

The proposal will be presented at an EU summit later this month in London, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said after meeting with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin. Spain in recent weeks has grappled with waves of hundreds of destitute Africans who climbed razor-wire fences to cross over from Morocco into Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the North African at country's coast.

He said the plan would address not only border security issues and cooperation among countries but also development in poor nations from which Africans flee to seek a better life in Europe, the AP reports.

The proposal aims to "involve the European Union much more than it has been involved up to now," Zapatero said.

On other issues, Villepin said the European Union must reach an agreement by the end of the year on its budget for 2007-2013, saying "without a budget, Europe cannot move forward."

Zapatero said that in World Trade Organization talks due to resume in December in Hong Kong, Spain and France agree that the European Union must unite to defend the bloc's common agricultural policy, which gives hefty subsidies to European farmers.

Monday's talks in Barcelona, which included several ministers from both Spain and France, also yielded an agreement to enhance maritime and road links and build a hospital that would serve people on both sides of the Franco-Spanish border.

It will be located in Spain, one kilometer (half a mile) from border, near the town of Puigcerda. A.M.

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