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17th Feb 2019

Tusk sets EU two-month deadline on migrant crisis

  • If EU migrant strategy fails, "we will face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen," said Tusk. (Photo: European Parliament)

The EU has "no more than two months to get things under control" in the migration crisis, EU Council president Donald Tusk warned Tuesday (19 January).

Addressing MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Tusk said that "the March European Council will be the last moment to see if our strategy works".

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"If it doesn't we will face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen," he added.

Tusk's warning comes as the decisions taken to manage the flow of migrants and strengthen Schengen area border controls are still not implemented.

"There is a clear delivery deficit on many fronts, from hotspots and security screening in frontline countries to relocation and returns," the EU Council chief said, adding that "the action plan with Turkey, although promising, is still to bear fruit."

Shortfall

According to the latest figures published by the commission Tuesday, 322 asylum seekers out of a planned 160,000 have been relocated, and 836 people have been sent back since September.

Other figures show that member states have made available 201 experts out of the 374 requested by the European support asylum office (EASO) and 447 border guards out of the 775 requested by the Frontex border agency.

Member states also pledged €575.45 million for the different funds set up to support programmes for refugees and displaced people, leaving a €2.2 billion shortfall compared to what they agreed in the autumn.

Tusk called on member states to "implement our agreements in full", while EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who spoke after him in the parliament, said that the conjunction of crises "requires to break out of national selfishness and return to the pioneering spirit".

"When I hear there is no European response to the refugee crisis, it's at the same time false and true," Juncker said.

"If member states had implemented policy we have put forward we we would be in a better situation than we now are," he added, reminding critical member states that "Brussels is them too".

UK talks

Speaking about the other current main challenge for the EU, the negotiations over British membership, Tusk said that an agreement at the next EU summit in February "will not be easy but it is still possible".

"In the run-up to the February European Council, I will table a concrete proposal for a deal with the UK to all EU leaders", he said.

Tusk said there would be "no compromise on fundamental values like non-discrimination and free movement" but that he could do "everything in my power to find a satisfactory solution, also for the British side".

He also suggested that a deal would not guarantee that the UK would remain in the EU.

"As of today the result of the referendum is more unpredictable than ever before," he noted.

"Time is of the essence here," he said. British prime minister David Cameron, for his part, has said several times that "what matters is getting the substance right, not the speed of the deal".

EU failing to deliver on migration plans

Three out of 11 hotspots in place. Two hundred and seventy people out of 160,000 relocated: Last year's EU promises to limit and better manage migration flows yet to materialise.

Germany proposes EU petrol tax to pay for refugees

Germany's finance minister, Wolgang Schaeuble, has proposed an EU-wide petrol tax to cover the costs of the refugee crisis, while saying Europe is moving to slowly on tackling the issue.

Austria imposes asylum cap to 'shake up' Europe

Austria to place cap on number of asylum claims it will process. German president, same day, said it may be “morally and politically” necessary to limit numbers.

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