European Council President Donald Tusk issued a dire warning as he arrived for the special meeting of EU leaders he had called for September 23 to discuss the migrant crisis, saying, “we are talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands”.
Tusk told reporters, “for many days I have tried to moderate discussions between (EU) member states, but we have now reached a critical point where we need to end the cycle of mutual recriminations and misunderstandings.”
“Today, our debate must be based on facts, not illusions and emotions,” Tusk said.
He said that in brief, the situation is the following: one, conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, will not end anytime soon., two there are eight million displaced people within Syria, while about four million have fled from Syria’s to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
“This means that today we are talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands.”
Three, Tusk said, that after his visits to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region, “I realised that our partners are expecting our help to solve their refugee problems rather than thinking of how they can help us. It is likely that more refugees towards Europe will flow through their countries, not less. Especially since almost all of them feel invited to Europe.”
He said that for EU leaders, the most urgent question was “how to regain control of our external borders?”
“Otherwise it does not make sense to even speak of a common European migration policy. What is at stake is also the future of Schengen, and a sense of order and a common European spirit.”
Tusk said that he would propose to leaders to agree on a number of short-term measures such as more help for the refugees in the region through the World Food Programme and UNHCR, more help for Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region, more help for the EU frontline countries; and immediate strengthening of the EU’s external border control, through Frontex, the European Asylum Office and Europol.
“These measures will not end the crisis, I am fully aware of this, but they are all necessary steps in the right direction. Today, we must prepare a concrete plan, which must finally appear in place of the arguments and the chaos we have witnessed in the last weeks. This plan must be our common plan. Nobody will be outvoted,” Tusk said, the last-mentioned an apparent reference to the majority vote at the September 22 meeting of EU interior and justice ministers that approved the EC’s migrant quota scheme.
(Photos: EC Audiovisual Service)