French PM rejects quota system for distributing refugees

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls rejects idea of quota system in order to distribute refugees across Europe ahead of an European Union summit to discuss refugee crisis

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls giving a press conference following the handover of a report on the reform of the French labour code.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls rejected the idea of quota system in order to distribute refugees across Europe on Sunday, ahead of an EU summit to discuss the refugee crisis.

While giving a speech at a security conference in Munich, Valls said France would stic to its pledge to take 30,000 of the 160,000 refugees that EU members have agreed to share among themselves, but would not accept additional numbers of refugees.

"We won't take any more," Valls said and added, "France never said 'come to France'."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to convince EU members to accept so-called "contingents" of refugees in an EU meeting on Thursday in Brussels ahead of the meeting of EU leaders.

"France rejects this," Valls said about the permanent quota mechanism.

He said France had already got 80,000 asylum applications last year alone and it has been dealing with high unemployment.

As more refugees head to Europe, Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said Germany has criticised plans by eastern European countries to help Macedonia and Bulgaria to tighten security along their borders with Greece, a country which is an entry point into Europe for many refugees.

However, leaders from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - known as the Visegrad Group - will meet on Monday in Prague along with their Macedonian and Bulgarian colleagues to discuss aid, diplomats said on Friday.

German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier  have written a letter to European Socialist leaders calling for a common voice on the distribution of refugees.

"Such measures must be agreed together and may not be unilaterally directed against one member state," the letter said.

"We want an agreement among the Visegrad Four countries that if Greece is not working, and it's not working, it makes more sense to invest money into the protection of borders between Greece and Macedonia, Bulgaria and other countries," Robert Fico said.

"We received a demarche [saying] how do we dare as V4, Bulgaria and Macedonia to discuss protection of external borders. Germany has filed a protest with our deputy foreign affairs minister because of this summit, saying we need to seek another way," he said.

On the other hand, the Czech government has sought to defuse tensions, claiming that the Visegrad group supported cooperation with Turkey and NATO’s engagement in the Aegean Sea.

EU officials said they expected Greece to tighten its borders with its Balkan neighbours. The European Union expressed concern with Athens on Friday over its failure to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past year.

TRTWorld and agencies