Wednesday 21 February 2018

EU seeks to end refugee squabble as Iron Curtain fears grow​

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini

Alice Dubois

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is urging the bloc to stop squabbling over proposals to share 120,000 refugees and find agreement at a meeting of justice and interior ministers.

Talking to reporters in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Ms Mogherini said that "our internal unity strengthens our external action or weakens it".

Later today, EU ministers in Brussels are expected to decide on a European Commission proposal for the emergency relocation of 120,000 asylum seekers currently in Greece, Italy or Hungary.

That number is in addition to the relocation of 40,000 people from Italy and Greece, a move adopted last week.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pledging to do everything to resolve the redistribution of refugees by consensus, rather than simply outvoting EU partners.

Ms Merkel said "there cannot and will not be a solution overnight" to the crisis and that more meetings will be needed.

"It's worth every effort to do everything to be able to decide by consensus among the 28 member states, rather than by qualified majority, on important questions such as the distribution of refugees," she said.

Serbia's Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic denounced the European Union for failing to act on the continent's refugee crisis and for allowing EU nations to put up border fences that he called a new "Iron Curtain".

"Only during wars have borders been closed like this and the EU acts like this is happening on a different planet," he said.

Mr Dacic also said it wasn't right that Serbia will not be included in an EU summit tomorrow to tackle the migrant crisis. Serbia is not a member of the EU, but has seen more than 150,000 migrants pass through in the past few months.

He recalled the "joy" in Europe when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and said countries from the former Yugoslavia "will not stand for being put behind another Iron Curtain".

Yesterday, Greek police said that 8,500 asylum-seekers crossed into Macedonia in the last 24 hours.


More than 260,000 people fleeing war and poverty have arrived in Greece so far this year, with the vast majority heading north through Macedonia to the more prosperous northern European Union countries.

Hundreds arrive on the eastern Greek islands each day, gradually making their way to the mainland, then north to the Idomeni border area and into Macedonia.

In Budapest, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that millions of migrants were "laying siege" to the borders of his country and of Europe, putting the continent in danger.

"The migrants are not just banging on our door, they are breaking it down," he said.

Mr Orban insisted the razor-wire fences Hungary is building on its borders with Serbia, Croatia and Romania are needed to stop the migrants and defend Hungary and Europe.

Speaking ahead of a vote to send soldiers to the border, he complained that "Europe sent out invitations to the migrants". He reiterated his view that most were coming for economic, not safety, reasons.

In Prague, the Czech Republic was also questioning the legality of proposed compulsory quotas for distributing refugees in European Union.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said it might be illegal under EU law to keep the refugees involuntarily in one particular country and it's not clear if national parliaments are entitled to block the quotas.

Irish Independent

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