EU fails to reach agreement on refugee crisis

EU ministers fail to secure agreement on attempted redistribution of 120,000 more refugees throughout bloc

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos (L-R), First Vice-President of the European CommissionFrans Timmermans and Luxembourg's Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean Asselborn hold a conference on refugee crisis.

Updated Sep 15, 2015

EU ministers were not able to reach a common ground on the redistribution of refugees throughout the bloc in an attempt to try and share the responsibility of sheltering hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum.

Ex-Communist eastern states blocked the efforts of both Germany and France to reach an accord for the redistribution of the 120,000 refugees around the bloc according to national quotas.

Following six hours of debate, the subject was put off until the next meeting on Oct. 8.

Hungary and Slovakia firmly opposed pleas to approve a quota system for the new large number, after a final endorsment of an earlier plan to redistribute 40,000 people to countries that volunteer to take them, according to officials.

Both states claim that such plans could attract more refugees to seek asylum in Europe which could lead to further mass movements that threaten Europe’s open borders Schengen system.

"We did not find the agreement we wanted," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters.

"The majority of member states are ready to move forward. But not all," Avramopoulos added.

However, the ministers did agree on increasing manpower and resources to protect the external borders, as well as humanitarian aid to the UN refugee agency.

By doing so, more refugees should be transported directly from the Middle East, sparing them life-threatening trips across the Mediterranean and preventing any benefits smugglers could gain, officials said.

In addition, ministers agreed to provide a list of “safe countries” - whose citizens are not normally eligible to be granted asylum - stating that Turkey would not longer be labeled as “safe” for now due to its current military action against PKK terrorists.

"The world is watching us," Avramopoulos said. "It is time for everyone to take their responsibilities."

Hungarian government spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, announced on Monday that the nation will completely reject refugees entering through the Serbian borders if they have not yet sought asylum in its southern neighbour.

"Certainly, as that is the international legal rule, therefore it must be done that way," Kovacs further explained.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has led the poorer eastern part of Europe in its quarrel with the wealthy west regarding the refugee crisis and refused to join in the plans for the larger relocation programme.

Budapest has already begun a crackdown on refugees passing through its lands by building a metal fence the length of its border with Serbia.

"The quota system isn't the solution," Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said as he arrived for the meeting backing Hungary’s stance towards the issue.

European Council President Donald Tusk stated on Friday that he would call EU leaders to meet for an emergency summit if their ministers failed to find a solution.

However, many governments are skeptic towards the real importance of such a meeting before interior ministers meet again for a regular council in Luxembourg on Oct. 8; Luxembourg currently runs the rotating presidency of EU ministerial councils.

TRTWorld and agencies