Brussels, Sep 15: EU interior ministers have failed to reach unanimous agreement on a plan for binding quotas to relocate 120,000 refugees and take the strain off Greece, Italy, and Hungary, officials said.
"Yes, not everyone is on board at the moment," Luxembourg minister Jean Asselborn told a press conference in Brussels yesterday, adding however that there was a "large majority" in favour and they would return to the issue in October.
EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos added: "For our proposal on 120,000 we did not have the agreement we wanted." The ministers were holding emergency talks to discuss plans unveiled last week by European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to redistribute 120,000 refugees from overstretched Greece, Italy and Hungary.
The plans face fierce opposition from many eastern European member states. The ministers did formally agree however to launch a plan first proposed in May to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy over the next two years, according to quotas suggested by the Commission.
Avramopoulos said there had been "very heated debates at national and a European level." "The commission is determined to take action. We will need another council meeting in the coming days," he said.
The quotas can be passed by a qualified majority under complex EU rules, but that would show a sign of disunity that the bloc can ill afford. EU Vice President Frans Timmermans said the "numbers (being accepted) today are much too small" and warned of the growing risk to refugees as winter draws near.