A meeting of European Union minds nearly devolved into a shouting match as the organization’s own migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, outright accused the European Council president, Donald Tusk, of advocating “anti-European” refugee resettlement policies.
The fact the fiery remarks came from the EU’s own migration top chief only underscores how dramatic the demographic shift in Europe has been in recent times.
This isn’t the first time Avramopoulos has spoken critically of the EU’s open border welcome to refugees.
In October, he said this:
But his remarks before the EU body were fiery nonetheless.
The Express has the story:
The European Union descended into bitter in-fighting yesterday after its own Migration Commissioner attacked the bloc’s policy on relocating refugees as “anti-European”.
European Union member states were heavily divided over how to replace or even reform the bloc’s “Dublin regulation” – where the country in which an asylum seeker arrives is responsible for them – and whether or not to introduce a mandatory relocation system for those granted protection.
Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos launched an attack on European Council’s President Donald Tusk’s plans to relocate refugees as “anti-European” and exposes the deep divisions within the EU as to how to deal with the fallout from the aftermath of the 2015 migration crisis.
Mr Tusk sent a note to all the EU leaders which stated: “Only member states are able to tackle the migration crisis effectively. The EU’s role is to offer its full support in all possible ways,” adding “the issue of mandatory quotas has proven to be highly divisive and the approach has turned out to be ineffective.”
Several countries reacted angrily to the comments and his implication that the primary responsibility for the refugees should fall on the frontline countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece.
Other countries – Germany and Sweden – were also critical of Mr Tusk’s letter.
Mr Avramopoulos, speaking at a European Parliament news conference said: “My position is very clear.
“The paper prepared by President Tusk is unacceptable. It is anti-European, and it ignores all the work we have done during the past years and we’ve done this work together.
“This paper is undermining one of the main pillars of the European project, the principle of solidarity.
“Europe without solidarity cannot exist.
“Our success in managing migration cannot be attributed to individual member states. These are European successes that are the results … of our joint actions, of our joint efforts, of the European Union institutions, its agencies and all members states.”
One Council official told Politico: “They need to sit down, look each other in the eyes and discuss what are we going to do about this, because it’s not going to go away.
“The point of having these political discussions without conclusions is exactly to confront the difficult issues. The intention is that that eventually will help unblock the deadlocks in the Council. That’s the very idea of the leaders’ agenda.”
Mr Tusk was forced into a humiliating climbdown later in the day due to the pressure and issued a revised note which called for the EU institutions to work together with individual countries over migration issues.
Mr Tusk wrote: “The EU can only tackle illegal migration effectively with the full involvement of Member States and by the coordinated use of EU and Member States means and instruments.
No Member State can deal with this common challenge on its own, but decisive action by lead Member States, backed by the EU and assistance from other Member States, has proven to be effective.”
However, the new paper still declared the mandatory relocation system a failure.
It stated: “The issue of mandatory quotas has proven to be highly divisive and the approach has turned out to be ineffective.”
A Council official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “Is it ineffective? Yes: relocation does not solve the migration crisis, it does not reduce the number of illegal migrants arriving in Europe.”
Should the mandatory quotas policy be dropped then this could lead to a confrontation with the European Parliament, which has an equal say over the EU’s asylum policy.
The Parliament’s position includes a mandatory allocation system that would apply at all times, not just when thresholds are breached as suggested by the Commission, and would oblige countries to take a set number of asylum seekers based on ratio calculated on the basis of GDP and population size.
If a country refuses to participate in the system, MEPs want that country to lose access to EU funds.
Jean-Claude Juncker’s second-in-command, Frans Timmermans, raged: “I firmly disagree with the statement that relocation as an emergency response has been ineffective.
“Migration is an issue that will stay with us for generations and we have to be possible for a next crisis. All building blocks of our comprehensive approach are needed. Take one brick out and the whole edifice crumbles. Temporary borders may become permanent with lasting damage.”
Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikstrom said: “This is a very good example of very bad European leadership.
“This is one of the worst examples of European leadership I have seen in recent years.”
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