Ahead of EU summit, Central European countries keep up fight against migrant quotas

A special meeting of European Union leaders on September 23 to discuss the migrant crisis was expected to see four EU countries opposed to the refugee redistribution quota system keep up the fight against it.

EU interior and justice ministers approved the quota plan, which would see 120 000 migrants redistributed among EU countries, only after a majority vote, with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania opposed and Finland abstaining.

European Council President Donald Tusk, when he called the special European Council meeting, said that he wanted EU leaders to discuss more than the migrant quota system.

“Besides discussing our overall approach to the crisis I want to address issues such as: help to the frontline member states; cooperation with the Western Balkan countries, with Turkey and the countries bordering Syria; budgetary assistance to the High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme; and the implementation of our conclusions on return and readmission. We must also discuss diplomatic efforts in solving the Syria crisis,” Tusk said in an September 18 letter to EU leaders.

But after the EU ministers’ vote on September 22, resistance to the quota plan continued to be stated.

“As long as I am prime minister, Slovakia will not implement quotas,” Slovakian PM Robert Fico said, according to a report by the Slovak Spectator.

Slovak interior minister Robert Kaliňák was considering the legal steps against the plan, Slovak media said. “The system will not work and Slovakia will not be forced to adopt quotas,” Kaliňák said.

The mandatory quotas for the redistribution of refugees are no solution to the migration crisis and will not work, Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on September 22, while Czech president Miloš Zeman said he expected the Wednesday EU summit to change the interior ministers’ decision, the Prague Post reported.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the BBC, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was preparing to shock Wednesday’s EU leaders’ summit with a solution of his own to the migrant crisis – and it will be costly.

Hungary will propose that each of the 28 EU members pays one per cent of its income from the Union, plus one per cent of its contributions to it, into a special fund. In Hungary’s case, that would amount to the equivalent of a billion euro, the report said.

On September 22, Hungary’s parliament adopted a declaration, entitled “Message to the leaders of the European Union”, saying that “the irresponsible politics of Brussels has led to the death of people,” presumably in reference to deaths of refugees, including the discovery of the dead bodies of 71 refugees transiting from Hungary.

In Romania, a newly-released poll found that most Romanians did not want any refugees in their country while those who are more open to taking in immigrants say that the country should decide on the number and not be forced to accept one set by the EU.

Among Central European countries, Poland broke ranks with its regional allies Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia to vote in favour of the refugee quota plan.

The September 22 the decision was deemed necessary by Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

“If we had not done this, Europe would have been even more divided,” Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters at a news conference following the vote, Deutsche Welle reported.

UK prime minister David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande held talks on the eve of the meeting, saying that finding a solution to the Syrian conflict would be key to resolving the migrant crisis, the BBC said. They also agreed more should be done to return migrants who do not have a genuine claim for asylum, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Bulgaria backed the mandatory quota scheme, with Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Roumyana Buchvarova saying, “This is a temporary solution. A lasting solution should be sought to end the crisis.”

She said the proposed relocation formula is fair and balanced.

“We have a proposal that a mechanism be devised to coordinate the individual member states’ efforts in dealing with the current problem,” she said, adding that such a mechanism should ensure that no country would take action that would cause problems in the other countries. She would not elaborate, news agency BTA reported from Brussels.



The Sofia Globe staff

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