EUROPEAN UNION REFUGEE SUMMITS

 

Against a backdrop of record numbers of migrants and refugees arriving at Europe's borders, on 23 September 2015, leaders from each of the European Union member states held an emergency summit to address the crisis.

The key outcome of the summit was an agreement on the budgetary, legal and operational measures to be prioritised for the next six months to deal with the exceptional number of refugees entering European territory.

Budgetary Support

Member states agreed to pledge more than €1 billion in emergency funding and aid. This amount includes €200 million from this year’s European Union budget, €300 million next year, plus a commitment from member states to match this total over the same period. The funding will be used to build capacity to manage migration, reception, return and border controls. The funding will also assist the UNHCR and World Food Programme to provide for refugees' essential needs like food and shelter.

 Legal Measures

The European Commission noted that the Member States have a poor track-record of implementing EU asylum laws and that this is stalling progress towards an effective response to the crisis. Member states agreed to take urgent steps to fully implement EU law in relation to asylum seekers, while the Commission announced a range of infringement decisions against 19 member states in an effort to improve ongoing enforcement of existing laws.

 Operational Measures

Member States agreed to provide support for a range of operational measures, including resourcing support teams to work in ‘hot-spot’ areas; providing assistance to member states struggling to effectively manage the numbers of refugees arriving in their territories; and complying with agreements to relocate refugees within the EU.

Relocation Agreement

Separately, on the eve of the summit, the home affairs ministers of each of the member states held a meeting to discuss the European Commission’s proposal to implement a mandatory scheme to relocate 120,000 people in clear need of protection from Italy, Greece and Hungary to elsewhere in the EU.

A majority of the European home affairs ministers agreed to the proposal in an amended form. However, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic expressed strong opposition to the proposal and voted against the mandatory scheme.  The Hungarian Prime Minister, in particular, has been vocal in condemning what has been described as the moral imperialism imposed by Germany.

Poland voted in favour of the scheme, on the condition that the number be split into two groups of 66,000 and 54,000 refugees. The current relocation scheme addresses the distribution of the first 66,000 refugees; the second group is to be dealt with in a year’s time. Slovakia is taking legal measures in protest against the scheme’s mandatory nature.

 

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Last updated 7 October 2015