EU should take ‘at least 100,000 refugees’

Donald Tusk calls figure a ‘fair distribution’ as Hungarian PM raises migrants’ religion

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) and European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels today. Photograph: Eric Vidal/Reuters

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (L) and European Council president Donald Tusk in Brussels today. Photograph: Eric Vidal/Reuters

 

The European Union (EU) should accept at least 100,000 refugees, the head of the European Council has said,

Speaking in Brussels at a joint press conference with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who is in Brussels for talks, council president Donald Tusk called for “fair distribution” of at least 100,000 migrants across Europe.

His comment raised expectations that the EU could unveil a new relocation proposal next week to respond to the migrant crisis.

“Fair distribution of at least 100,000 refugees among EU states is what we need to do,” the former Polish prime minister told reporters, adding reception centres for refugees should also be built outside Europe.

Writing in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , however, Mr Orban, the controversial Hungarian leader, referenced the religious profile of those seeking refuge in Europe.

“Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims,” he said. “This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity.

Referencing the article, Mr Tusk said that Christianity “in public and social life” carries a duty.

“Referring to Christianity in a public debate on migration must mean in the first place the readiness to show solidarity and sacrifice. For a Christian it shouldn’t matter what race, religion and nationality the person in need represents.”

World View

Although the EU agreed a relocation scheme for 32,000 Syrian nationals arriving in Italy and Greece earlier this year, the European Commission (EC) is working on a permanent scheme that would be triggered in emergency situations.

Amid reports that a figure of 120,000 is being considered, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to bring forward more details of the plan in a speech to the European Parliament next Wednesday.

Any proposal would then be discussed by EU ministers at a justice and home affairs meeting scheduled for September 14th.

Speaking in Brussels this lunchtime, an EC spokeswoman said the original relocation plan was “only ever meant to be a starting point.”

The commission had proposed in May that 40,000 migrants be included in the relocation scheme, but EU member states in June reduced this figure to 32,000 amid opposition from some member states about accepting more migrants.

With Hungary emerging as one of the flashpoints in the migration crisis, the Hungarian prime minister is meeting the presidents of the European Council, commission and parliament today in Brussels for emergency talks.

But in a sign of mounting tension between Hungary and Germany over the issue, the Hungarian prime minister said the refugee crisis, the biggest since the second World War, was a “German problem”.

“All of them would like to go to Germany. Our job is only to register them,” Mr Orban said this morning. “If the German chancellor insists that nobody can leave Hungary to Germany without registration, then we will register them.”

Amid chaotic scenes on the borders of Europe, Hungarian authorities this week allowed undocumented migrants to pass to Germany and Austria on Monday, only to prevent migrants boarding trains the following day.

Under the Dublin convention – a cornerstone of EU asylum law– those seeking asylum must do so in the countries where they first arrive.

Hungary has attracted criticism for its handling of the migration inflows into its country, including the erection of a 175-kilometre fence on its border. Austria and France criticised Budapest over the move, prompting Hungary to summon the ambassadors of both countries.

Although the European Commission has said Hungary is free to control its own external borders, it has tacitly criticised the move. It is expected the commission’s decision to grant Hungary at least €8 million to help deal with the crisis will be discussed at today’s meetings.

Mr Orban, who has regularly clashed with the European Commission, over justice and law and order issues in recent times, is also due to attend a meeting of the so-called ‘V four’ group of east European countries – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia – in Prague on Friday.