Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Germany, Italy alarmed by EU disunity on migrants

  • Steinmeier (c): 'Europe has no right to be divided' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for a united European approach to the migration crisis and urged fellow member states to stop blame games.

“Europe has no right to be divided [when] facing such a challenge”, he said, while arriving at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Friday (4 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“We won’t be able to fulfill our mission if we don’t stop mutual accusations”.

He spoke after the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban, on Thursday, described the crisis as “a German problem” and blamed Berlin's open-door policy for aggravating the situation.

Concern the crisis could harm the EU architecture was, on Friday, echoed by Italian foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni.

He told press in Luxembourg that unless the EU changes its asylum laws, EU free movement - a core principle of the Union - might be undone.

The so-called Dublin laws say member states where migrants first enter the EU are responsible for processing their asylum claim.

The system kettles people in front-line countries, such as Greece, Hungary, and Italy.

But lack of internal EU borders, under the so-called Schengen accord, allows them to go to prefered countries, such as Germany, causing chaotic scenes at railway stations and on national boundaries.

“If we don't renegotiate the Dublin rules, first of all, [to acknowledge] the fact that one enters Europe and not a specific country, we'll end up having to renegotiate Schengen … which would be a defeat for Europe's politicians”, Gentiloni said.

The Austrian foreign minister, Sebastian Kurz Austrian, indicated the situation is so severe that EU leaders should call an emergency migration summit.

New initiatives

The Luxembourg talks come amid new initiatives to shape a European response.

Steinmeier, Gentiloni, and their French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, outlined their ideas in a letter and five-page plan sent, this week, to EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini, who is chairing Friday’s event.

The texts, seen by EUobserver, call for a more efficient asylum system and repatriation policy for failed claimants.

They speak of greater EU “solidarity” - a hot-button word, alluding to future EU quotas for relocating migrants from the front-liners.

They propose creating an integrated border management system on the EU’s external borders.

They also propose deeper security co-operation with Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, and more EU money for refugee camps in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

The talk of “solidarity” comes amid news the European Commission will, next week, propose to increase front-line relocation figures to 160,000 people (from 40,000) and to add Hungary to Greece and Italy in the scheme.

It means Hungary could post 54,000 asylum seekers to other EU states.

But its foreign minister, like Orban, remains critical of the scheme, saying, in Luxembourg, it will act as a pull-factor for even more migrants to come.

Orban himself is, also on Friday, meeting with leaders from the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia in Prague.

The so-called Visegrad group has, so far, fiercely resisted EU relocation quotas.

Some Visegrad leaders have also enflamed the debate by saying they only want Christian, not Muslim, refugees.

Walking to Austria

Whatever ministers say, the migrants are, meanwhile, taking matters into their own hands.

On Friday, thousands of people who were previously stranded at a Budapest railway station began to walk, en masse, toward Austria.

On Thursday, others refused Hungarian police orders to get off trains and go into processing camps.

Orban is also taking matters into his own hands.

The Hungarian parliament, where he has a huge majority, on Friday adopted new laws which give the police and army extra rights to stop people from moving around and to search private homes if they suspect people are informally sheltering refugees.

The laws, which, critics say, violate basic civil liberties, also provide for a new “transit zone” on the Hungary-Serbia border, where future asylum seekers’ claims will be dealt with.

News in Brief

  1. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  2. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  3. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  4. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president
  5. Putin: Russia will help Africa without 'conditions'
  6. Almost 200 arrests in Catalonia independence protests
  7. Report: Russian hackers used Iranian cover to attack UK
  8. Next EU economy chief calls for looser budget policies

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  2. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  3. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  4. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  5. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  6. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  7. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK
  8. EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us