EU refugee plan must go further, says German minister
Published 11/09/2015 | 12:39
Germany's foreign minister says the European Union needs to go beyond an already-contentious proposal to redistribute 160,000 migrants who are already in Europe and agree on a "fair distribution mechanism" for those still on their way.
Germany expects 800,000 migrants to arrive this year and Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted that the European Commission's proposal to redistribute refugees will send more to Germany, not take any off its hands.
He was speaking at a meeting with his counterparts from several eastern European countries who are resisting quotas.
Mr Steinmeier added that European nations need to think about "joint European communication" in countries where migrants are coming from to stop rumours arising that "in Europe, wherever it may be, everyone either has a right to asylum or a guaranteed job".
Denmark said earlier that it would not accept any of the 160,000 refugees the EU wants to relocate from Italy, Greece and Hungary.
Like the UK and Ireland, Denmark is not legally bound to take part in EU plans to spread refugees more evenly across the bloc and integration minister Inger Stoejberg made clear that Denmark has no intention of joining voluntarily.
He told reporters: "We won't be part of the distribution of the 160,000 asylum-seekers," and added that Denmark is already receiving a large number of asylum-seekers.
Almost 15,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark last year. Neighbouring Sweden, whose population is nearly twice as large, took in more than 80,000.
Despite this, European Council president Donald Tusk said he is more hopeful now that the EU can deal with the refugee crisis after contacts with member states in recent days.
Speaking during a visit to Cyprus, Mr Tusk said an emergency meeting of EU home affairs and justice ministers on Monday needs to produce "a concrete positive sign of solidarity and unity".
If no deal is found, he said he would have to call an emergency EU Council meeting to tackle the crisis.
Earlier EU diplomats said the bloc's interior ministers will not act on Monday to put into action a new plan to share the refugees in Greece, Italy and Hungary.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled the plan on Wednesday and called for it to be adopted at the emergency meeting.
But a diplomat with the EU's Luxembourg presidency said "we are hopeful for a formal adoption on October 8" at a meeting in Luxembourg.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who has closed his country's border with Serbia, said the solution to the crisis lies in Greece.
"We have to take care of the problem where it exists," Mr Orban told a Budapest news conference. "If Greece is not capable of protecting its borders we need to mobilise European forces to the Greek borders so that they can achieve the goals of European law instead of the Greek authorities. That is one of the foremost goals."
Under EU asylum rules, those seeking refugee protection should apply in the first EU country they enter. Greece is the first EU country on the migration route that starts in Turkey and runs through the Balkans and Hungary. Thousands take short journeys by boat each day from the Turkish coast to Greece's eastern Aegean islands.
But other EU nations in recent years have stopped deporting people back to Greece, citing its overwhelmed, dysfunctional asylum system. Germany recently decided to stop sending people back to Hungary for similar reasons.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of four Central European countries said they had rejected an EU plan for mandatory quotas for accepting asylum-seekers when they met Mr Steinmeier.
Czech foreign minister Lubomir Zaoralek, who hosted the meeting, said: "We need to have control over how many (migrants) we are capable of accepting."
"The first and most important task is to gain control over the outer border of the European Union," Hungary's Peter Szijjarto argued.
Poland and Slovakia were also represented at the meeting.
Finland says it will take part in the EU scheme to take care of the refugees arriving in Italy, Greece and Hungary and will accept 2,400 of them.
Finance minister Alexander Stubb said Finland would do this "on a voluntary basis" rather than be legally obliged to do so.
Speaking at an EU finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg, Mr Stubb said: "We don't think this is about decision-making or institutions. It's about helping others."
He said the migrant crisis "is a defining moment of European integration and in many ways a much more critical issue than we've had with the euro crisis".