EU urged to secure borders from 'millions' of migrants

The EU's president urged leaders gathering for an emergency summit today to stop fighting over a refugee quota deal and take urgent action to secure the bloc's borders in the face of "millions" of migrants.

AFP| Last Updated: Sep 23, 2015, 23:15 PM IST
EU urged to secure borders from 'millions' of migrants

Brussels: The EU's president urged leaders gathering for an emergency summit today to stop fighting over a refugee quota deal and take urgent action to secure the bloc's borders in the face of "millions" of migrants.

After European Union ministers forced through a deal to relocate 120,000 refugees in the teeth of opposition from eastern states, Hungary's hardline prime minister angrily denounced Germany's "moral imperialism".

Slovakia meanwhile said it would dispute the quota deal in court, underscoring the deep divisions that have emerged in Europe over its biggest migration crisis since World War II.

Donald Tusk, head of the European Council, called for an end to "the cycle of mutual recriminations and misunderstandings" fuelling the split between the EU's richer west and poorer former communist east.

"The most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders," Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, told reporters.

"The conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, will not end anytime soon," he said. "This means today we're talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands."

Greece, still reeling from its debt crisis, was expected to come under particular pressure to accept EU help to strengthen its borders as a frontline state besieged by thousands of refugees flooding in by sea from Turkey.

Tusk will also press EU leaders to offer more aid to affected countries outside the bloc including the western Balkans and Syria's neighbours Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Ahead of the meeting, the European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation bloc, proposed an extra 1.7 billion euros (USD 1.9 billion) in funds.

The 120,000 refugee relocations are just a faction of the 500,000 migrants who have come to Europe's shores so far this year and the estimated four million camped on Syria's borders.

In a rare move on the eve of the summit, EU interior ministers did not wait for unanimous agreement but passed the relocation plan by majority vote in the teeth of opposition from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia.

The eastern states argued that the EU has no right to override national sovereignty and make them accept people from overwhelmed frontline states such as Greece and Italy.

"The most important thing is that there should be no moral imperialism," Hungary's hardline leader Viktor Orban said during a visit to the southern German state of Bavaria when asked what he expected from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Orban has proposed a three-billion-euro fund for dealing with the crisis but it was not clear whether the leaders would discuss that.