Germany, Italy, and Holland led the charge against European Council President Donald Tusk’s trial balloon proposal to scrap member-state quotas for the resettlement of refugees, at the ongoing EU summit in Brussels.
Tusk had raised his proposals in a paper sent to EU leaders, but he reportedly revised his text and backpedaled after the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, lambasted his proposal as a violation of the fundamental principle of EU solidarity.
Tusk’s homeland of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic –the so-called Visegrad countries – are among those which have refused to shoulder their share of the refugee burden.
These four countries agreed to contribute 35 million euros to Italy in order to block the passage of migrants from Africa through Libya.
Greece has maintained that the quotas for refugee reception should be based on the criteria of member-states’ population and financial ability.
On the eve of the summit, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described Tusk’s apparently abortive initiative as “off target, untimely, and pointless”.
According to a source attending the summit, Tsipras told other EU leaders that the main problem with Tusk’s proposal is that it favours the undermining of EU principles by certain countries. He said that the issue is not simply if a country will receive a few hundred refugees, but one of principle.
Tsipras reiterated Greece’s call for the creation of a European mechanism of readmissions to countries from which migrants have reached EU territory. He said that any financial assistance to third countries from which refugees come to the EU should be linked to their acceptance of readmissions.
Greece has agreed to implement many policies with which it disagreed, and other member-states must do something comparable on the refugee-migrant issue, Tsipras said.
In the customary statements upon her arrival at the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there cannot be “selective solidarity among EU states.
Merkel has come under fierce criticism at home for admitting hundreds of thousands of migrants, and her domestic audience would not look kindly on arbitrary exemptions for certain other states.