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MIGRATION – Will the current divisions lead to an impossible EU unity over the refugee issue?

MIGRATION – Will the current divisions lead to an impossible EU unity over the refugee issue?

Today’s media coverage on migration focuses on Berlin’s suggestion to make the nations that do not agree to the migrant quota system pay cash penalties – and Brussels’ opposition to that – Germany and Austria’s call for special refugee summit, and Hungary’s declaration of a state of crisis amid preparations for a fence on its border with Romania.

The German Interior Minister said yesterday, in a ZDF interview, that EU funding should be reconsidered for countries opposing the mandatory refugee quota system, a statement garnering wide media attention in Europe. Thomas de Maizière proposed that EU funding should be cut to countries that refused to accept refugees, but some sources – notably from Germany – note that Brussels is opposed to such a suggestion. EC Chief Spokesperson Margaritis Schinas stated that the EC had no legal right to cut EU funding in such circumstances, reports.

The European Commission indeed stated that there is “no legal foundation” allowing the suspension of payment of EU structural funds, and that EC President Juncker“never said” he supported such a proposal, Le Figaro adds. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann also called for an emergency EU summit of European leaders over the refugee crisis to be convened next week, and – according to The Independent – their call is under review until tomorrow. What is more, according to sources such as and La Stampa, the Luxembourg EU Presidency has announced that EU Home Affairs Ministers will hold an extraordinary Council on 22 September in order to discuss the migration crisis. Besides, after having sealed the Hungarian-Serbian border, the Hungarian government has decided to prepare plans for building a fence at Hungary’s border with Romania, to be able to deal with a possible change in the route used by migrants, Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Péter Szijjártó unveiled.

The Romanian authorities’ reaction came rapidly, with the Foreign Affairs Minister stating that building such a fence between two EU member states and two strategic partners is not a fair thing to do from a political point of view, Digi24 notes. Hungary also declared a state of emergency on its border. Speaking at a European Parliament debate, EU HR Mogherini said – as quoted by The Independent – that governments were adopting local, short-term measures that ignored the bigger picture. “There is no illusion that this can be stopped with a fence or with a wall,” she said, referring to Hungary’s border fence with Serbia. “Our lack of internal unity has an impact on our external actions and credibility,” she added. Speaking with Libération, Ms Mogherini reiterated her calls on European leaders to take their responsibility in the migration crisis, stressing that they have to agree to take in refugees so that EU member states can fairly protect the thousands of migrants fleeing the chaos of war. It is the only way, she stressed, for the EU to be credible both in inside and outside its borders.

European Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos also expressed his dismay about the lack of unity among EU member states, Sky News reports. When asked by France Info how to convince reluctant countries, First EC Vice-President Timmermans answered that one must make them understand that it is in their own interest:“One cannot only appeal to solidarity, we must explain that it is in the common interest, and that these countries will face the same problems next year or later on.”  UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres also believes that the refugee crisis can be handled if the EU countries act together, his statements and position garnering media attention in Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

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