European leaders sparred over border management and the sheltering of refugees, as a study predicted an unabated influx of people fleeing persecution and poverty.
Southeast European states continued to object to mandatory quotas for spreading 120,000 refugees around the continent, setting up testy meetings in Brussels of national ministers on Tuesday and of European Union leaders on Wednesday.
Those numbers were dwarfed by an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast that the tide of migrants into Europe will rise to 1 million in 2015 from 630,000 last year and will remain around that level for most of the decade.
“It is unlikely that pressure from sending countries will ease,” the Paris-based OECD said. “Europe has better legal and institutional systems in place for asylum-seekers and migrants than it did in the 1990s. However, these have not ensured a fair burden-sharing between countries.”
Battles over who should help the refugees played out on Tuesday, with Germany halting train traffic from Salzburg in neighboring Austria, the European Commission pleading for a “comprehensive solution,” and EU-member Croatia shutting a highway crossing on the border with non-member Serbia, its enemy in the Yugoslavian civil war 20 years ago.
“This is Croatia’s brutal attack on Serbia and an attempt to destroy the Serbian economy,” Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters in Belgrade.
Blaming the EU
Serbia should “tone down” rhetoric, Croatia’s Premier Zoran Milanovic as he accused its eastern neighbor of making a pact with Hungary to channel migrants through Croatian territory instead of an earlier route through Hungary, Hina news agency reported.
While there were fewer disorderly scenes at the EU’s external frontiers, the Hungarian government threw the problem back at other European capitals, saying the EU has enticed migrants to risk their lives with promises of a better life.
“The wave of illegal immigrants threatens to blow Europe apart,” Hungarian lawmakers said in a decree on Tuesday that called on the EU to protect its borders. Not named was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for her open-door policy.
Interior ministers meet Tuesday in Brussels to try to apportion 120,000 refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan across the EU according to each country’s size and wealth. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary are the leading opponents, though without enough votes to block the proposal.
France is “determined” to reach an agreement that includes tighter monitoring of the EU’s external borders, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. “We can’t send out a signal that we want to welcome everyone right away -- that would be irresponsible.”
Wednesday brings a summit of the 28 EU leaders to weigh the refugee-relocation plan plus border surveillance, migrant registration in Greece and Italy, and aid for countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan that are under greater strain.