Under pressure: EU approves migrant deal amid opposition

120,000 refugees to be relocated under the plan opposed by east European states.

Afp September 23, 2015
120,000 refugees to be relocated under the plan opposed by east European states. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS: EU ministers pushed through a deal to relocate 120,000 refugees on Tuesday, but rode roughshod over fierce opposition from central and eastern states in a major blow to unity in the bloc.

In a move that deepens bad blood over the biggest migration crisis since World War II, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia all voted against the plan while Finland abstained.

“Very soon we will find that the emperor is naked. Common sense has lost today!” disappointed Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec tweeted after emergency talks in Brussels.

The hotly debated proposal will see European Union countries forced to take a share of thousands of new arrivals from Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea who are currently in frontline EU states like Greece and Italy. The ministers were under pressure to reach a deal that could be ratified by EU leaders at a crisis summit on Wednesday, but in a rare step for a bloc that is keen to show a united front, the agreement was by a majority vote instead of unanimity.

Officials said the relocation deal covered 66,000 refugees who would be moved from Greece and Italy plus another 54,000 who had previously been earmarked to be relocated from Hungary before it refused to back the plan.

Hungary and its eastern partners oppose the plan because they say Brussels has no right to make them take in thousands of people, and to do so amounts to a violation of their national sovereignty.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2015.


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