Donald Tusk, president of the European Union, has said that the refugee quota scheme could be scrapped. The scheme was designed to ensure all member states are accepting a fair number of refugees, however it’s been divisive throughout Europe and the decision has been made to abandon the policy.
A six month deadline has been set for leaders across all EU members to reach an agreement that’s fair. If there’s no clear consensus, Tusk will propose an alternative arrangement to replace the quotas. He said in a draft letter that “If there is no solution … including on the issue of mandatory quotas, the president of the European council will present a way forward.”
Compulsory quotas were first introduced in 2015 during the peak of the migration crisis, and thousands of refugees were arriving daily in Southern Europe. The quota has faced opposition, especially in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Replublic, Slovakia and Romania, who have disputed the policy from the start.
Both Poland and Hungary has defied the refugee quota policy, going against the rest of the EU, and neither has taken any refugees since it was introduced. They were both referred to the European Court of Justice for refusing to adhere to the policy and ignoring EU rules. Despite the backlash, the Commission proposed to make the quotas part of EU law in 2016.
This proposal was put on hold, as ministers were unable to agree on it. The idea of dropping the quota is particularly unpopular with Southern European countries like Greece and Italy, who have large numbers of refugees and have made pleas to the rest of Europe to take the pressure off them. Germany and Sweden, who have also taken a large number of refugees, are likely to dispute the idea of scrapping the quotas.
It’s thought that Tusk will call on EU governments to take suitable numbers of refugees, rather than relying on leaders in Brussels to dictate the numbers. According to Tusk’s letter “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 to help member states handle the migration crisis. But the EU has neither the capacity nor legal possibilities to replace member states.”
He has also urged more EU leaders to invest in schemes that would keep more refugees outside of Europe, including the EU Africa Trust Fund. The EU has also promised to increase funding to Turkey to help refugees arriving from Syria, as well as invest in new schemes to help ease the problem in the long term.
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