European Union leader under fire over suggesting refugee quotas could be scrapped

14 December, 2017, 17:28 | Author: Wade Massey
  • Jean Claude Juncker

Hungary's rightwing government, a fierce opponent of mass immigration, on Thursday welcomed EU President Donald Tusk's rejection of mandatory refugee quotas.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos hit back at Tusk, saying that his intervention was "unacceptable" and "anti-European".

Greens lawmaker Ska Keller said "Tusk is undermining the prospects of a solidarity-based refugee policy in Europe" and that "without a fair redistribution of refugees, European asylum policy will remain vulnerable to crisis".

The European Union introduced the relocation quota system in 2015 amid the refugee crisis, as hundreds of thousands refugees and migrants from North Africa and the Middle East arrived in Europe, fleeing from conflicts and crises in their own countries.

As the latest sign of division caused by the quotas, the European Commission last week made a decision to haul the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland before the Court of Justice of the EU for not taking in refugees.

European Commission migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos, a veteran Greek politician, has wavered for almost two years and said trying to force EU countries to honor pledges to take in refugees and migrants was too delicate before it was reported they would take to the EU's highest court.

"The commission firmly disagrees that relocation has been ineffective", Margaritis Schinas added. "Europe without solidarity can not exist".

European Union
GETTYThe Commission has opponents on all sides of the debate

Tusk's note also raised the question of whether the European Council president is overstepping his role as facilitator of consensus by engaging in making proposals, a job reserved for the EU commission in the bloc's political and institutional balance.

An EU source, however, said Tusk was "not imposing any role" in this process, but only wants to spur debate by "asking hard quesitons".

Still, by late afternoon Tusk had issued a revised note for the summit, with a decidedly more upbeat description of the EU's efforts, that seemed to sharply alter course by calling for the European Union institutions to work in partnership with individual countries to address migration issues.

"It might be a bit more controversial, if you want to solve controversial and divisive issues, you can either hide and wait or you can tackle them", the official said.

Italy and Germany are among the countries that want mandatory quotas, so that migrants can be relocated at times when there is a surge of migration into the EU.

The Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August 2016 and not made any new pledges for over a year.

Some diplomats have said that it is actually Tusk's proactive approach that could avoid the schism that happened in 2015, when Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were voted down on the emergency relocation scheme.

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