European Union leaders tried to restore some integrity to their group’s name by agreeing early Thursday on new measures to alleviate the continent’s migrant crisis despite deep rifts that have opened up between member nations.
After weeks of name-calling and finger-pointing, the heads of government of the 28 EU countries pledged more than $1 billion toward improving conditions at camps for Syrian refugees in the Middle East, to discourage them from setting out for Europe.
The leaders also agreed to work on better securing the bloc’s perimeter and setting up EU-administered facilities in front-line countries such as Greece and Italy to register and fingerprint new arrivals.
The emergency summit in Brussels lasted nearly seven hours and was conducted in a “better than expected atmosphere,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
But rancor remained over a contentious proposal to resettle 120,000 refugees across the continent, barely a quarter of the total number of asylum seekers who have already crossed into Europe this year. The plan was approved Tuesday by EU government ministers through a rare majority vote rather than the usual consensus, over the angry objections of four Eastern European countries.
Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia has openly vowed to resist the plan, though EU law requires compliance.
“We won’t implement this decision because we think it can’t work,” Fico said Wednesday before the summit. “We always rejected it as nonsense.”
Such defiance elicited a blunt rejoinder from President Francois Hollande of France, one of the EU’s founding nations.
SOURCE: HENRY CHU
The Los Angeles Times