Germany said on Tuesday it wants European Union nations to overcome a deadlock on how to handle refugees and migrants this year, weighing in on a bruising dispute that has divided the 27-member bloc for years.
With Berlin holding the EU’s rotating presidency until the end of the year, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he wanted to get “at least a political agreement on the most important issues” to reform the bloc’s asylum system that collapsed in 2015 during a major increase in migrant arrivals to Europe.
“Whenever a vessel arrives, we always make huge efforts to distribute migrants to EU countries. But it’s always (just) a small number of member states willing to admit migrants and this in unworthy of the EU,” Seehofer said via translation.
“If they are entitled to international protection, we should expect solidarity from all EU member states to admit these people. You cannot solve this question by leaving it to Italy, Spain, Malta or Greece.”
That goes to the heart of the dispute in the EU, where the ex-communist, eastern countries including Poland and Hungary have dug in their heels, refusing to host any of the people who flee wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
Unable to agree how to provide for those who make it to the bloc, the EU has turned to tightening its borders and asylum laws, slashing the number of arrivals from more than one million in 2015 to 123,000 last year.
Seehofer said he hoped the reluctant countries would now reconsider.
The EU’s top migration official, Commissioner Ylva Johansson, said she would propose an overhaul of the its troubled asylum rules after the 27 national leaders agree on a mass economic stimulus to recover from the coronavirus pandemic – another thorny theme requiring unanimity of all EU countries.
“We cannot continue with this ad hoc solution,” Johansson said on Tuesday of repeated instances of migrants being stuck on boats in the sea for weeks before countries including Sweden, the Netherlands or Germany agreed to take them in. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska Editing by Mark Heinrich)