Merkel Calls For EU Summit On Refugee Crisis | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Merkel Calls For EU Summit On Refugee Crisis

Posted: Sep 16, 2015 at 12:04 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for a special European Union refugee summit, urging unity after an angry reaction to a suggestion by one of her ministers that states that did not take in their share of asylum seekers could face financial penalties.

The proposal by Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere was forcefully rejected by the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which are among eastern European states that have resisted European Union plans to share out refugees.

Merkel later took a more conciliatory tone, calling for Europe to come together on the refugee issue.

“I think we need to establish a European spirit again … I don’t think threats are the right way to achieve agreement,” she told a news conference with Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, whose country is also in the front line of the refugee crisis.

Facing opposition from ex-Communist states, EU ministers failed on Monday to break a deadlock over sharing responsibility for accepting some of the hundreds of thousands who have sought asylum in Europe.

De Maiziere said the EU was still some way from agreeing long-term quotas for refugees. “So I think we must talk about ways of exerting pressure,” he told ZDF television, adding that some of the countries that opposed quotas were the beneficiaries of structural funds – EU money allocated to help poorer regions catch up with wealthier areas.

A senior Czech official said threats to cut such funding had no basis in law. “German threats that central Europe will be punished by cutting cohesion funds are empty but very damaging to all,” Tomas Prouza, the Czech State Secretary for the EU, said.

Slovakia insisted it would never support mandatory refugee quotas. In response to Germany’s proposal, Prime Minister Robert Fico said that never before had a country been punished for having a different opinion. Taking such a step would mean “the end of the EU”, he said.

Merkel said Europe faced one of its biggest challenges in decades and the problem could only be solved by the EU as a whole. She and Faymann called for a special summit next week.

It would not discuss sharing out refugees, which was being handled by interior ministers, Merkel said, but would deal with the question of supporting the countries refugees are coming from, working with Turkey, and setting up “hotspots” for the registration of refugees in Greece and Italy.