Just one day after the controversial asylum-seekers resettlement quotas passed by vote at an extraordinary Council meeting, EU leaders met at an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday 23 September to discuss wider questions of the topic. Although some countries´ representatives were outraged after the forced vote on Tuesday, the summit met in a constructive atmosphere and nobody resorted to personal attacks. Although the summits conclusions are modest (as usual), they were widely viewed as a good sign and a step forward. In a nod to Eastern Europeans, the summit puts emphasis on border management and protection. Quotas were not discussed at all, insiders indicated. Slovak PM Robert Fico had indicated that he would re-open the quotas issue again, hoping to get the heads of state and government to somehow “override” the ministerial Council´s decision. This was not attempted.
The leaders pledged more money to UN-funded programs that help refugees, as well as to EU agencies implicated in the refugee crisis. More money will also go to the states which are most affected by the refugee wave. Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, stated clearly that chaos, until now characterizing EU´s efforts, must absolutely end. New money, from the EU and from the member states, for multilateral as well as bilateral relief programs is part of the solution. Borders are to be strengthened. Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon will be supported in their efforts to accommodate Syrian refugees, while Western Balkans state will be supported, too, since a majority of refugees now pass through these countries. Member states also pledged to take part in renewed efforts at the UN level to overcome the impasse in Syria and Libya. Most importantly, though, the plan to establish the so-called hotspots in neighboring countries is becoming more real. In such hotspots, safe zones with basic services for asylum-seekers, legitimate refugees will be separated from economic migrants. The first group will be processed and relocated into the EU in an orderly manner, while the second group will be speedily dismissed and returned to their country of origin. Further measures will be discussed at the next ordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council session in October.
Parallel to that, EU navies participating in the military EUNAVFOR Med operation, will begin boarding, searching and seizing smugglers´ vessels in the Mediterranean on 7 October.
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