Does Europe need refugee quotas?

The heads of state and government were unable to overcome their differences regarding binding quotas for a fair distribution of refugees at their EU summit in Brussels. EU Council President Donald Tusk and several Eastern European states want to scrap the refugee quotas system, while receiving countries like Germany and the Netherlands call for solidarity. The deeply entrenched front lines are also reflected in Europe's commentaries.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

It's about the principle

The EU must remain firm on refugee quotas, Deutschlandfunk demands:

“The European Union has perfected the art of political compromise in the course of its history. This is then often branded as horse-trading or poor compromises. But that's not fair, because what's achieved is often a highly elaborate balancing of interests. On the issue of the distribution of refugees, however, there can be no compromise, no balancing of interests. This is a matter of principle. Therefore it is right of the other 23 member states to refuse to give in on this issue. And it is right to continue to seek dialogue. Otherwise the only path is the predetermined course for a community bound by law. And that is the path to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

Threat of a rude awakening in 2018

New forms of solidarity between the EU member states are needed, the taz argues:

“The solution to the refugee crisis does not lie in a return to nation states as Tusk's proposal suggests. Because that would be the end of solidarity in view of the refusal of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The solution lies in organising solidarity differently and better. Instead of obligatory quotas the EU could try out voluntary contingents, rather than imposing fines it could require contributions to a common asylum and migration policy. The West should hold out a hand to the East instead of condemning it. ... If things go on as they have done and all the problems are put on the back burner we could all experience a rude awakening in 2018.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Tusk has exposed EU's bad idea for what it is

Die Welt maintains that Tusk has done nothing but speak the bitter truth:

“The real reason why the distribution quotas don't work is simply that refugees are not keen on being redistributed by EU bureaucracy. ... They go to the countries they always dreamed of living in. Or they're trapped in the country from which they can't get away. When the German chancellor responds to Tusk's theories by saying that there must be no 'selective solidarity' among EU member states, she is simply saying that things shouldn't be the way they shouldn't be. But unfortunately that's the way they are. An EU that can't even agree on a joint description of the reality of the situation won't be able to find a solution to the biggest challenge it faces right now.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Common strategy still lacking

EU Council President Donald Tusk's criticism of the quota system could pave the way for a new discussion about a common EU refugee policy, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung stresses:

“Tusk acknowledging [that the system doesn't work] and taking a step towards Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia by breaking the taboo is politically understandable. ... These countries have already reacted and held out the prospect of Italy receiving 35 million euros for a mission to protect Libya's southern border. These are nice symbolic gestures but they can't replace a European strategy. Today there is a consensus that as many migrants as possible should be stopped by a better secured European border. A realistic policy will also accept, however, that some will make it through - legally or illegally.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Eastern Europe must learn about solidarity

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte harshly criticised Viktor Orbán at the summit for his country's refusal to take in refugees. Rightly so, De Telegraaf finds:

“As soon as the subject of migration is on the agenda the EU falls apart arguing. ... The Visegrád states refuse to fulfil their obligations regarding compulsory distribution of refugees. ... Yesterday in Brussels they sold an aid package of 35 million euros for the Africa fund as their contribution to European solidarity. ... But Rutte pointed out that solidarity means more than that. ... It must be made clear to the Eastern Europeans that the EU is not just about holding out a hand for money. It is difficult for any politician to explain at home why asylum seekers are coming.”

Club Z (BG) /

Accept the resistance of the people

Whether the resistance against the distribution of refugees in Europe is morally right or wrong is a matter of opinion, but it is certainly democratic, writes Club Z:

“The political reality shows that the resistance against the distribution of refugees is a mass phenomenon. A true democracy must accept this reality. Otherwise it could fall victim to it. The fear of refugees creates a breeding ground for anti-democratic political forces. The more Brussels insists on the quotas, the more support for the populists and Eurosceptics of all stripes grows and the more the pro-European established parties are weakened.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

A dismaying lack of solidarity

Tusk's behaviour shortly before the summit in Brussels begins is extremely strange, the Frankfurter Rundschau finds:

“It's an affront to countries like Italy, Greece and Germany, which are particularly hard hit by refugee migration. Tusk is siding with countries like Hungary and Poland that no longer hold with Europe's values and solidarity but always shout 'here!' when Brussels is distributing money. The EU Council president should think about getting his act together before the summit begins. Otherwise he risks ruining his reputation as an honest agent.”

Wpolityce.pl (PL) /

Kaczyński proved right

The pro-government news site Wpolityce is delighted with what it sees as Tusk's condoning of Warsaw's refugee policy:

“Tusk's letter is one of the first signals confirming the correctness of the diplomatic measures taken by Poland. ... Incidentally it's also a defeat for Tusk, who tried for weeks to defend the measures that the European Commission and Berlin had been whispering to him from the wings. He even went as far as reprimanding Warsaw, and now - whether he likes it or not - he's proved Kaczyński right.”

Proto Thema (GR) /

Italy and Greece are the dupes once more

Tusk's decision to give up the quotas for the redistribution of refugees is harshly criticised by Proto Thema:

“He is annulling the only decision on refugees that somehow showed that the EU is still a Union and not just a grouping of states in which a neo-liberal and nationalist conclave calls the shots. ... A handful of bureaucrats who have adopted the views of extreme conservatives and almost far right forces in Germany, and also the views of the Visegrád countries and other northern and 'selected' states, are leaving the problem in the hands of the weakest links in the chain, the dupes, Italy and Greece.”

Avgi (GR) /

Solidarity and unity became a farce long ago

Avgi, by contrast, is not at all surprised by Tusk's initiative:

“The farewell to the European 'ideal' of solidarity and unity already began when Europe tolerated the Visegrád states' refusal to take in the number of refugees assigned to them. ... It was a tolerance that was then legalised by the imposition of a per-capita fine for each refugee that was refused entry into these countries. It was crystal clear that as soon as a country could free itself of its obligations by paying 250,000 euros per refugee [not taken in], that country would prefer to pay this low price. In particular when it comes to countries in which the ideology of staying 'clean' of refugees predominates.”