Saturday

17th Nov 2018

EU forces 'voluntary' migrant relocation on eastern states

  • Czech Republic among the outvoted on Tuesday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU states agreed a legally binding plan Tuesday (22 September) on relocation of 120,000 refugees, in a vote which thwarted opposition from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.

The vote marks an unusual EU step, in terms of forcing a minority of EU states to take action on issues of national sovereignty.

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

In a sign of wider opposition, Finland abstained.

"We've reached an agreement with a very big majority, bigger than required by [the EU] treaty. We would have preferred unanimity, and it's not because we haven't tried", Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn told press after the meeting in Brussels.

He said the EU Council decision doesn’t include a European Commission “key” on how to calculate national relocation quotas, based on population size and wealth.

He also said this means the 120,000 refugee relocation scheme is "voluntary".

"The total remains 120,000 persons. Now these figures have been accepted by member states on a voluntary basis".

But he added that opponents must abide by the outcome of the vote.

"No country has the right to refuse”, he said. "I have no doubt that they will implement these decisions fully in line with community law”.

Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said he’ll “make sure” it’s implemented, adding that “infringement proceedings” could follow if it isn’t.

Asselborn tried to defuse tension. "We’re in an emergency situation, the EU is accused [of] not moving quickly, so we had to decide on this plan”, he said.

Bitter divide

But Tuesday’s events mark a bitter divide.

Slovakia’s prime minister said the same day: "As long as I'm prime minister, mandatory quotas won't be implemented on Slovak territory”.

Czech interior minister Milan Chovane said Prague might challenge the decision in the European Court of Justice.

The fiercest opposition had come from eastern European members, notably the Visegrad Four (V4): the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

They met several times in recent weeks to restate their opposition to mandatory quotas.

But the Czech Republic’s Chovanec tweeted on Tuesday: "Poland took a brake [sic]. I'm afraid for now it will only be V3 :-(".

The 120,000 figure includes relocation of 50,400 asylum seekers from Greece and 15,600 from Italy - two frontline states.

It also includes 54,000 proposed to Hungary, but refused by its PM, which is now available for Greece, Italy, or other EU states that appeal for help.

Messages

The vote comes ahead of an EU summit on migration on Wednesday.

Timmermans said EU leaders will discuss border security, fingerprinting of migrants, and repatriations of failed asylum claimants.

The leaders will agree an informal joint statement.

“It’ll say the EU should be more active in conflict resolution in its direct neighbourhood, more active in neighbouring countries, that it should strengthen dialogue with Turkey, and allocate more financial resources [to the crisis]”, an EU source told this website.

The French and German interior ministers, on Tuesday, also sent a message to EU neighbours.

France’s Bernard Cazeneuve and his German counterpart, Thomas De Maiziere, said Europe "can't take all those who are today in refugee camps" in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

They also said the EU needs more border security and faster expulsions.

EU diplomats tweak text on migrant relocations

Hungary's unused refugee relief quota can go to other states, while relocation refuseniks won't pay fines, according to the latest EU compromise on the migrant crisis.

Anti-migrant quota EU states meet in Prague

Foreign ministers from the main opponents of migrant quotas are meeting in Prague on Monday, as refugees continue to criss-cross the EU's "leaky" borders

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us