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Divide between EU members widen over migration crisis

A meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to discuss the migration crisis ran into the early hours of Friday but failed to narrow the gap between eastern and western bloc members on the issue.

Published: December 17, 2017, 7:24 am

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    EU nations openly bickered over migration policy on Thursday, after Austria’s new young chancellor Sebastian Kurz, joined eastern and central European countries in rejecting mandatory refugee quotas for all EU member states.

    Kurz backed EU President Donald Tusk’s call against the “ineffective” and “highly divisive” quota scheme, in a letter to EU leaders before the second day of a summit held in Brussels.

    Eastern European states Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic – known as the the Visegrad Four – which have refused to take migrants, agree with Tusk while Germany and Greece support the relocation scheme.

    “Tusk is right when he says that mandatory migrant quotas in the EU haven’t worked,” said Kurz. “I will work towards changing this erroneous refugee policy,” he told the Austria Press Agency, calling for a “system change”.

    He congratulated Tusk on a “positive” move, as well as “other European states that are pressing first and foremost for decent border protection and spending more EU funds on this”.

    The Visegrad Four announced that they planned to spend around 35 million euros to increase EU border security after the four countries were criticized for failing to show solidarity with the rest of the bloc.

    The quota scheme to share the burden of the flood 160 000 migrants, agreed to in 2015, was to help immigration frontline states Greece and Italy, but only some 32 000 migrants have been relocated.

    The EU has no plans for a permanent mechanism for future crises.

    EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos meanwhile called Tusk’s remarks “unacceptable” and “anti-European” while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker openly riled against Tusk.

    As migrant arrivals to Greece from Turkey increase, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met on Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss the EU-Turkey pact signed last year and aimed at curbing undocumented migration.

    According to sources, Tsipras will ask Brussels and Berlin to put pressure on Ankara to curb migration.

    There are concerns in Athens that a decision by the government to start moving migrants from overcrowded island camps to the mainland might encourage smugglers to bring more migrants over.

    Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed his anger, calling the four eastern nations “shameless” for shirking responsibility by not taking in their share. He said their decision would wither the EU. “If we allow this then we get an EU where people go to shop for whatever they like,” he said.

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