EU, no agreement on migrants, wall from eastern countries

Green light only for first 40,000 and anti-smuggling mission

15 September, 11:18

    Refugee protests accompany European ministers meeting in Brussels Refugee protests accompany European ministers meeting in Brussels

    (by Patrizia Antonini)

    BRUSSELS - The hawks from eastern countries are dividing Europe over 120,000 refugees to be allocated. There is an agreement ''in principle'' supported by a vast majority of States but, in spite of repeated attempts, unanimity has not been found. Everything has been postponed until a new meeting of ministers scheduled on October 8 when, if worse comes to worst, decisions will be taken with a qualified majority. Meanwhile, the 28 members have given a formal green light to the start of 'phase 2' of naval mission EuNavForMed which provides for the use of force against smugglers in the Mediterranean. Although the draft text of the agreement has been repeatedly watered down to obtain the approval of all 28, turning an ''engagement'' to reallocate into ''an agreement of principle'' to do so and the ''willingness'' to do it, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania have continued to oppose the matter throughout the meeting.

    Budapest has led the group of 'rebels', stressing it wants to be cancelled from the list of beneficiaries in which it is listed together with Greece and Italy. Slovak Minister Robert Kalinek arrived at the summit insisting that ''quotas are not the solution'' and in the same hours Polish Premier Ewa Kopacz has stressed the same line, although her minister showed some openings during the summit.

    An issue to emerge clearly is that the Schengen treaty is at stake in this match, further weakened after Vienna and Bratislava expressed the intention of following the example of Berlin and restore border checks, threatening to unleash a 'domino effect' that could worsen an already complex situation in the Old Continent.

    Poland is considering what to do and French Minister Bernard Cazeneuve is threatening to go along that route if things with Italy do not work out.

    Meanwhile, with the green light yesterday to the first plan of 40,000 reallocations (26,000 from Italy and 14,000 from Greece), the legal groundwork is set for the start of the 'hotspots' plan providing for centres to distribute and identify refugees from economic migrants. The latter should be kept in Italy and Greece, in centres regulated with a ''certain severity'', as explained by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, while they await repatriation.

    The interior minister is however asking for the gradual implementation of hotspots, in parallel with reallocations, but most of all relying on the effectiveness of repatriations which must be ''managed by Frontex'' with ''community resources'' and under European responsibility. The EU arrived divided at the meeting.

    In spite of the many adjustments to allow the largest number of countries to approve the general principles, ambassadors from the 28 did not succeed in finding an agreement on the draft conclusions, leaving politics to look for a solution. In spite of a 'wall' from the East, however, there are the required numbers for a qualified majority and although, given the delicate situation, it is generally considered the last option, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has not ruled it out.

    ''I am not the one to decide, but I don't see why not'', she said.

    France and Germany are insisting, through ministers Cazeneuve and de Maiziere, on hotspots and repatriations. They want guarantees on the full implementation of the dual take ''responsibility-solidarity''. This is why they are asking for ''clarifications'' and dates on the implementation of the project.

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