Tusk says Europe has two months to tackle refugee crisis

European Council’s President Donald Tusk warns Europe, says it has no more than two months to tackle refugee crisis

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A child looks on as refugees wait in line inside a registration camp in Presevo, Serbia, January 20, 2016

European Council President Donald Tusk warned the European Union on Tuesday stating that the 28-nation bloc had no more than two months to solve the refugee crisis, otherwise passport-free Schengen zone could collapse.

According to Frontex, 2,000 refugees arrive in the EU countries per day. Tusk speaking to the EU parliament in Strasbourg stated that those numbers were not encouraging as EU governments have failed to deliver on commitments to curb the influx of refugees reaching Europe and figures are showing little sign of decreasing over the winter months.

Tusk’s warning came amid tension among EU countries,  with some blaming Greece and Italy for letting too many people in. Athens and Rome say Germany's initial open-door policy encouraged more arrivals than anyone could cope with.

Tusk also said he would present a detailed proposal on the talks with Britain ahead of a summit next month concerning its demands for change within the bloc. London said these changes are necessary if the country is to remain a member.

"There will be no compromise on fundamental values like non-discrimination and free movement. At the same time, I will do everything in my power to find a satisfactory solution also for the British side. As of today, the result of the referendum is more unpredictable than ever before. Time is of essence here, and this is why I will work hard to strike the deal already in February. It will not be easy but it is still possible," he said.

The most contentious demand is to allow London to curb benefit payments to EU refugees for four years after they arrive in Britain.

“No easy solution”

Shortly after EU Council’s stark warning, Germany’s foreign minister said there’s no easy solution to the refugee crisis as closing the borders doesn’t prevent people from trying to enter Europe.

"We will not find a solution in the blink of an eye. And I guarantee that it does not lie with closing borders. A closing of the borders is not a solution to the problems." Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Tuesday and added that the solution to the refugee crisis would be tackling the root causes driving people to flee their homes, such as conflicts in the Middle East.

Highlighting the importance of cooperation with Turkey, an important transit country for  refugees trying to reach  Europe, he urged European countries to make good on their pledge of 3 billion euros in financial assistance to Turkey.

Steinmeier also criticized the EU after it’s commissioner in charge announced that ‘hot spots’ in Greece and Italy will be operational within the next four weeks.

"We are not happy with the developments on the European level. And I am not only talking about the fair distribution but we are far behind in establishing the so-called hot spots” he said.

“Turkey played it’s part”

The European Union must fulfill its promise of the 3 billion euro deal it struck with Turkey in return for stemming the flow of refugees into the bloc, Turkey's EU Minister said on Wednesday, a day after German foreign minister called on Europe to  financially assist Turkey.

Speaking on state-run TRTHaber, Volkan Bozkir said that Turkey had fulfilled its side of the bargain, but that the EU must resolve its internal differences, after European officials said last week that Italy was blocking plans to release the promised aid.

"The method (countries) will use regarding the deal is a matter of EU's internal affairs," Bozkir added.

Hungarian PM says Europe’s security is falling apart

Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban said on Tuesday that Europe’s security is falling apart amid refugee crisis, as the country is getting ready to build an anti-refugee fence on its border with Romania “to defend” itself from the flow of refugees.

Speaking at a commemoration ceremony on Tuesday, Orban said he was concerned whether there will be a Europe at all and what kind of continent future generations will inherit.

Hungarian police use pepper spray at the "Horgos 2" border crossing into Hungary, near Horgos, Serbia, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015

Orban has frequently come under heavy criticism for his anti-refugee and anti-Muslim stand. His statements were not welcomed by many Europen leaders including European Council President Donald Tusk and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.

"For a Christian, it shouldn't matter what race, religion or nationality the person in need represents." Tusk previously stated.

However, Orban once again expressed his fears regarding Muslim refugees.

"We can see with our own eyes how Europe's security is disintegrating and its lifestyle based on Christian values is endangered." he said. 

Authorities shrink Calais refugee camp

Calais refugee camp in Northern France has been shrunk by authorities, pushing tent dwellers back 100 metres to distance them from the road leading to the port, a jumping off point to enter Britain.

An Afghan refugee sits in front of a burnt dismantled shelter in the camp known as the "Jungle",  a squalid sprawling camp in Calais, northern France, January 19, 2016

Bulldozers moved in this week to clean the terrain after hundreds of refugees began moving deeper into the squalid camp, activity continued on Tuesday.

The prefecture has proposed giving those displaced priority in new containers opened a week ago to shelter up to 1,500 refugees. More than 4,200 are staying in Calais.

Some fear the camp will eventually be razed to rid Calais of refugees.

TRTWorld and agencies