Reopening the discussion on refugee quotas for European Union countries is “not on the table,” and the bloc should instead focus on strengthening its external borders, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said.
EU countries should also do more to help quell the problems in countries like Syria and Libya, where most of the tens of thousands of refugees who have come to Europe originate, Sobotka said after meeting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Prague.
EU countries are locked in dispute over how to deal with the influx of thousands of new migrants each day. While Sobotka’s proposal echoes that of most of the bloc, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday unwillingness to take in more is a “huge disgrace.” Most of the people streaming in from conflict-ridden areas in north Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan see Germany as their preferred destination.
“We are prepared to help, but we simply can’t help everyone,” Sobotka’s foreign minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, said after the meeting with Fabius.
A European Commission proposal to set a refugee quota for each EU country was defeated in July, as most members refused to commit. Instead, Hungary is building a wall along its border, Denmark said it would cut benefits for asylum seekers, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron characterized people trying to enter his country illegally from north Africa as a “swarm.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande plan to reopen the question of refugee quotas for individual EU members during a meeting in Berlin later on Monday. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the European Union “urgently” needs binding distribution numbers for taking in refugees.
The crisis keeps growing. In the Republic of Macedonia, where officials declared a state of emergency last week, several thousand people broke through the border from Greece on Saturday, overwhelming police in the former Yugoslav state as they continue their journey to northern Europe.