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EC boosts financing for refugee crisis

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has prepared a roadmap including a series of concrete, funded actions. The plan under consideration by EU leaders on Wednesday aims to do more to prevent migrants from trying to enter the bloc the Wall Street Journal Europe sums up. The proposals included more money for Syria’s neighbours to help settle and integrate refugees from the war-ravaged country, including up to €1 billion for Turkey and strengthening the EU’s external borders.

The plans also call for setting aside more money for the EU countries most affected by the influx of people seeking refuge on the continent. First EC Vice-President Timmermans stated that the EU had plans to set up hotspots in the Mediterranean region to register asylum seekers, a few Bulgarian sources report, while Migration Commissioner Avramopoulos announced that hotpots in Italy and Greece are expected to be operational by the end of the week, British and Cypriot media report.

According to EC Vice-President Georgieva, speaking at yesterday’s College meeting, the crisis requires full mobilisation of all financial resources, and the financing addressed to deal with the refugee crisis has doubled, from €4.5 billion to a total of €9.2 billion, since it started in early 2015, Bulgarian media such as Focus News Agency report. After the College meeting, other Commissioners and EC officials replied to questions on the refugee crisis (for more information, see the Interview section below).Separately, in what amounted to a political warning shot, the European Commission informed 19 countries, including Germany, Greece and Hungary, that they could be penalised for not properly implementing asylum rules.

In total, the EC sent 40 notifications to EU members for failing to apply asylum norms. Media are generally divided in their comments on the EU’s way of handling with the refugee crisis; some seeing yesterday’s meeting as a sign of easing resistance, whereas some others focus on continuing divisions. European leaders meeting Wednesday sought to salvage some credibility over their handling of the migration crisis after a scarring few weeks that have laid bare their deep differences over a plan to redistribute migrants across the continent, the Wall Street Journal Europe notes, stressing though that their continuing divisions were still apparent as they entered the meeting yesterday, setting the stage for a contentious debate that some painted as a battle for the EU’s moral soul. “Resistance to refugee quotas eases in east,” an INYT headline reads.

European Council President Tusk’s call on EU leaders to put an end to the blame game which has plagued relations in recent weeks seems to have been heard, Le Figaro notes. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the French newspaper adds, for instance sounded really accommodating upon his arrival in Brussels yesterday. But, according to the International New York Times, Hungary’s leader continued to take an especially hard line on Wednesday. Viktor Orbán is indeed quoted by the Wall Street Journal Europe as saying that Germany’s efforts to shape Europe’s response to the refugee crisis smacked of “moral imperialism.” And a FAZ headline reads “Orbán’s isolation,” sarcastically describing the Hungarian Prime Minister as the “last knight of the Occident.”

Besides, as Magyar Nemzet highlights, the Hungarian Prime Minister outlined, in a press conference in Germany, a six-point proposal he was to present at the emergency EU summit on migration in Brussels later last night. Mr Orbán’s points included persuading Greece to hand over the defence of its borders to the EU; distinguishing refugees from economic migrants outside of Europe; the EU agreeing on a list of safe countries; setting up a financial fund; cooperating with Russia and Turkey; and applying refugee quotas globally, not only in the EU.

British media are particularly critical of the EU. An editorial in the Daily Telegraph, for instance, argues that the refugee crisis not only highlights the flaws of the EU’s open borders and free movement rules, but the way it has imposed resettlement quotas on member states shows it up as being dictatorial. It also shows the balance of power in the EU remains with Germany and France, which pushed through the quotas against considerable opposition. A Times editorial for its part highlights how the worsening refugee crisis is pushing the EU to breaking point. It also warns that the EU needs a more coherent response, and that the quota system could boost the continent’s far right.


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