Friday

23rd Aug 2019

Refugee crisis prompts snap EU summit

  • Summit demanded by Germany, Austria, and Slovakia (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on the migrant crisis on Wednesday (23 September), amid crackdowns on EU borders and disagreement on how to share 120,000 refugees.

The "extraordinary, informal meeting” will discuss how to deal with the refugee crisis", EU Council president Donald Tusk said.

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The summit will come one day after a special meeting of EU interior ministers on migrant relocation.

The ministers failed to agree, this week, on a European Commission proposal on redistributing another 120,000 refugees.

But they did agree to an earlier Commission plan to share 40,000 people seeking protection.

Tusk’s summit announcement, on Thursday (17 September), came the same day Slovenia introduced controls on its border with Hungary.

It’s move is the latest in a series of crackdowns by members of the passport-free Schengen area, including Austria, Germany, Slovakia, and the Netherlands.

Bulgaria, also on Thursday, said it would send up to 1,000 soldiers to its Turkish border.

In Croatia, about 7,000 migrants arrived in less than 24 hours, some of whom clashed with police while trying to cross from Serbia.

The clashes follow similar incidents at the Hungarian-Serbian border.

Opposition

The situation in the Western Balkans and Hungary will be one of the main issues discussed by EU leaders on 23 September.

The Commission proposal on relocating 120,000 people will also lead the agenda.

Austria and Germany had already called for an EU summit earlier in the week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that creating a mandatory and permanent relocation mechanism is “the responsibility of the entire European Union”.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico had also called for a summit, but saying that EU institutions shouldn’t “dictate" to EU capitals how many refugees to take.

Slovakia, along with the Czech Republic, and Hungary oppose the Commission relocation scheme, while Poland has flip-flopped on the issue.

But a bigger coalition of EU states could outvote them in the EU Council.

Even the plan’s fiercest opponent, Hungarian Viktor Orban, has conceded, in German media, that “in this case [the decision to apply refugee quotas] would be a law and we would have to accept it”.

But he warned that outvoting Hungary "would be ill-advised, unfair and I am sure that there would be a high price to pay later".

Parliament vote

For its part, the European Parliament, also on Thursday, used a fast-track legal procedure and voted in favour of the Commission's relocation scheme.

MEPs approved it by 370 votes against 134, with 52 abstentions.

The European Commission denied reports it’s ready to water down its proposal into a voluntary one.

"Our proposal remains on the table as we have proposed it”, Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said on Thursday.

She added, however: “If there are any changes during the legislative process, then we can discuss the changes".

The Commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, noted that opponents of the plan haven’t offered alternatives.

"The only thing at work is our proposal”, he said. "What are the other proposals? Looking around, we don't see anything”.

EU asylum talks end in weak compromise

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