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07/09 – Migration crisis – latest reactions

The migrant crisis in Europe continues to draw wide EU media headlines. Most media report that some 13,000 migrants crossed the Austrian-Hungarian border this weekend, to go to Germany, taking advantage of Hungary’s decision to stop screening international train travellers for travel visas. All German media comment that the rapid influx of migrants has exposed tensions within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s three-party government. On Sunday she met with leaders of the Christian Social Union, who are critical of her decision to welcome the migrants stuck in Hungary, as well as Social Democrats, who support her move but want more help from the rest of Europe.

Several media also reveal that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker will propose this Wednesday before the European Parliament to relocate 120,000 to 160,000 refugees across EU member states, with priority given to Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers located in Italy, Greece and Hungary. The Financial Times reports that Mr Juncker is vowing to be ambitious and challenging reluctant political leaders to shelter tens of thousands more migrants than they have previously agreed. The plan will be a mix of ideas first proposed in May — many of which have already been rejected by EU leaders — and new policies aimed at stemming the migrant flow and better handling those that do arrive on Europe’s shore.

Nevertheless, these new quotas will have to be approved by EU leaders. Germany, France and Spain are expected to take in 59% of the refugees, according to El País. Britain is refusing the principle of quotas, but volunteered to take in 15,000 Syrian refugees, Corriere della Sera and FAZ write. Moreover, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia have refused to accept any plan that will force EU member states to take in refugees, writes Politiken. According to Der Spiegel and Cyprus Mails, EU member states that do not wish to receive refugees will have the option to help by providing financial contributions for other member states to handle those people.

While Hungary’s PM insisted that the quota system would not prevent asylum seekers from fleeing any host country towards Germany, Brussels responded that refugees who receive asylum have to stay and work in their host country for at least five years and that hot spots are also intended to take the fingerprints of asylum seekers in order to make sure the rules are respected, Les Echos reports.

During the informal European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security EC Vice-President Federica Mogherini said that migrants will be a long-term problem and that the EU member states need to adapt to the new realities, LRT Televizija reports. In an interview with Rai News 24, she also maintained that Europe will guarantee protection to those who are fleeing war, although it will not be capable of taking in all migrants. EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans stated in Greece that Europe has to find its balances in order to protect its societies and not abandon its values, Naftemporiki writes.

Speaking from the Greek island of Kos on Friday, Frans Timmermans also noted that “if we do not succeed in implementing a common asylum policy in Europe, then we will have failed,” Greek and Cypriot media quote him as saying. Reacting to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s op-ed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in which he asked “Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? If we lose sight of this, the idea of Europe could become a minority interest in its own continent,”

Economic Commissioner Pierre Moscovici argued, during talks with world financial leaders in Turkey on Friday, that Europe should not respond to the influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa with nationalism, noting that caring about human rights is part of the European identity. “Our answer must be in line with our history and our values and with what Europe is about,” he said, as quoted by Cypriot media. Meanwhile, Cypriot media also report that 115 refugees fleeing the war in Syria were rescued off the shores of Cyprus.

Several media continue to comment that Europe is not doing enough to tackle the crisis. Daily Právo features an interview with Czech PM Bohuslav, in which he maintains that Europe is not handling the problem. In his column on the migrant crisis in L’Opinion, Guy Verhofstadt MEP writes that, after “two summits for nothing,” it is urgent for the EU Council to gather again “because inaction is no longer an option.” In an interview with Salzburger Nachrichten, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann urgently calls upon European Council President Tusk to convoke an EU refugee summit, adding that he cannot understand why Mr Tusk is planning to convene the heads of government of the EU only in October.

In an interview in Hamburger Abendblatt, Angela Merkel says that the current European refugee policy is no longer functioning, and that Berlin is pushing for a policy that better reflects European humanitarian values, with a fair distribution of refugees among all member states, the faster processing of asylum applications and more help for member states on Europe’s borders. Meanwhile, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in an interview with German Vorwärts, that what is currently taking place at European borders is a disgrace, noting that it is the failure of EU governments that prevents a European solution on the issue of migration.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel admits in Le Soir that “if the Europeans cannot find a solution for the refugees, I will be ashamed to be the head of a European government.” An article in the Washington Post on Sunday reports that according to a UN refugee agency, as many as 200,000 spots for new refugees need to be created in Europe. La Repubblica and the International New York Times report that Pope Francis implored Catholic institutions throughout Europe on Sunday to show mercy to the flood of refugees arriving on their shores by offering them shelter. “May every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe host a family, starting from my diocese of Rome,” he said at the end of his Angelus prayers in Rome.

On the contrary, Les Echos reports that in spite of deep divisions, Europe is “seriously tackling” the refugee issue. Thomas Kirchner notes in Suedeutsche Zeitung that the European Commission has presented suggestions to tackle the refugee crisis “with lightning speed.” In a commentary in SME daily, Tom Nicholson writes that while old member states, led by Germany, offered various kinds of help to refugees, defending the “Europe of our dreams” as stated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, governments of the V4 states seem to be ungrateful and forgetful regarding their own history.

A new iron curtain is about to emerge between Western and Eastern Europe, threatening to divide the EU and put an end to the freedom of movement, write Therese Larsson Hultin in an article in Svenska Dagbladet and Wolfgang Hansson in a column in Aftonbladet. Security analyst Richard Galustian writes an opinion piece in Times of Malta in which he says that the migrant surge is set to break the European Union as it has exposed the Union’s corruption, cronyism and cowardice.




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