EU, Balkan leaders agree on refugee plan

EU, Balkan leaders agree on 17-point action plan, will accept additional 100,000 refugees as winter weather approaches

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel speaking at a news conference after meeting with the Balkan leaders over the refugee crisis at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 26, 2015.

Eleven leaders from EU and the Balkans, after a meeting on Monday morning, agreed to cooperate with each other in tackling the greatest migration crisis since World War II and also to make room for an additional 100,000 refugees as winter looms. 

"This is one of the greatest litmus tests that Europe has ever faced," said German Chancellor, Angela Merkel after she and Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras met 9 with other leaders. 

The talks which began on Sunday, were described as leaders “venting” at each other's ineffective measures in handling of the refugee crisis, this was followed by several pledges to cooperate with each other and finally an agreement on a 17-point action plan.

The statement which includes the United Nations backed accommodations for 100,000 refugees, mainly coming from Greece, states that a “unilateral action may trigger a chain reaction.”

Several states have closed off their borders or have moved large groups of undocumented refugees to neighbouring countries’ borders. 

"Countries affected should therefore talk to each other. Neighbors should work together along the route," the statement said.

President of the European Union, Jean-Claude Juncker asserted that it has been “made very clear that the policy of simply waving people through must be stopped."

Merkel who called the meeting said it was vital to find a humane solution for the tens of thousands of refugees stranded in the Balkans, as borders are closed and worrisome winter weather nears.  

"Europe must show it is a continent of values, a continent of solidarity," she said. "This is a building block ... but we need to take many further steps."

Merkel also stressed the importance of negotiating with Turkey, a main route refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan use to cross over to Europe.  

The outcome of the meeting also pleased Tsipras, who has been under fire by EU, for allowing nearly half a million mainly undocumented refugees to cross into Europe from Greece this year. 

The finalized agreement states that Greece will increase its commitment to expand its accommodations for refugees to 30,000 by the end of this year. 20,000 will be sheltered in private accommodations, while accommodations for another 50,000 will be made available in the countries located further north. 

The United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR, will work in collaboration with the government on the program.

An official has reported that Greece currently accommodates 7,000-10,000 refugees.

Moreover, Slovenia is expected to deploy 400 additional police officers to try to handle the refugee flow, which has increased this month, as Hungary closed its border with Croatia.  

Slovenia was alarmed when 60,000 refugees, were recorded to have arrived at the small Alpine country within the last 10 days. 

Close to 250,000 refugees have crossed through the Balkans since mid September. Croatia has reported that 11,500 people have entered the country on Saturday alone, making it the highest in a single day since Hungary built a fence on its border to keep the refugees out. 

Although several leading officials continue their meetings on how to ease the refugee crisis, migration experts state that the influx of refugees would not end until the war in Syria, which is pushing millions out of the country, is resolved. 

TRTWorld and agencies