- Hungary, Czech Republic oppose mandatory quotas in the EU
- EU leaders to discuss roots of refugee crisis on Wednesday
German Chancellor Angel Merkel told her European Union counterparts they face a long battle to help refugees flooding into the bloc as Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. will take in thousands more people fleeing the conflict in Syria.
Divisions resurfaced in the European Union on Monday with Hungary and the Czech Republic reiterating their opposition to mandatory quotas that Germany and the European Commission want to set for distributing refugees. Leaders are trying to manage an unprecedented influx of people caused by the turmoil around their borders while assuaging the concerns of their voters.
“There won’t be a solution overnight,” Merkel said in a speech in Berlin on Monday. “These deliberations will be important, but they surely won’t allow us to set aside the problem. We will need patience and stamina.”
The U.S. will admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, with the total number allowed to resettle rising to 100,000 in the 2017 fiscal year from 70,000 last year, Kerry said in Berlin on Sunday.
Migrants continued to stream through the EU over the weekend, with more than 20,000 arriving in Austria, mostly from Hungary, where authorities are passing on migrants traveling from Croatia. Croatian authorities suspended traffic for trucks entering from Serbia at a main highway crossing, local border police chief Djordje Bordjoski said by phone.
Serbia has become a bottleneck for refugees trying to get into EU members like Croatia and Hungary on its borders. Hungary re-opened a crossing into Serbia over the weekend which had earlier been closed following clashes with migrants.
“Serbia cannot allow itself to become an concentration camp, surrounded by wires and with traffic closed,” Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in Warsaw on Monday, according to Tanjug news service.
The EU, the U.S. and Gulf states need to come up with at least 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) in the next few months to support the countries around Syria providing food, shelter and medical supplies, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in Vienna on Saturday. The EU’s share should be about 1.5 billion euros, he said.
Instead of assigning quotas, Hungary wants the EU to strengthen the bloc’s external border and help Syria’s neighbors house millions of refugees to deter them from traveling on to Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told lawmakers on Monday.
The foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia met on Monday in Prague to align their positions ahead of the EU summit. The Czech Republic won’t support mandatory quotas, CTK new service reported, citing Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka while Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said her country should show “solidarity” as long as economic migrants are excluded and the external borders of the passport-free Schengen area are strengthened.
There needs to be a “comprehensive approach” by the EU to remove rejected asylum seekers from the bloc, Helen Bower, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman, told reporters on Monday in London. Cameron will discuss migration and Syria at a dinner with French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday evening, she said.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere proposed over the weekend that the EU set an upper limit to the number of people it accepts as asylum seekers, though he failed to immediately win the backing of Merkel’s coalition partners for the plan.
“We will not be able to take in all of the world’s refugees as well as those who want to be able to improve their economic future in Europe,” de Maiziere said on Monday, pledging to speed up processing of asylum seekers already in Germany to determine if they qualify to stay.