Balkan, EU leaders agree to coordinate on migrants
Updated: 2015-10-26 10:46
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a news conference after a meeting over the Balkan refugee crisis with leaders from central and eastern Europe at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 26, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
BRUSSELS- European leaders agreed to cooperate to manage migrants crossing the Balkans but offered no quick fix to a crisis that threatens to take more lives as winter sets in and to set Europe's nations against one another.
Meeting in Brussels as another woman and two children died at sea off Turkey, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met leaders of nine countries on the route from the Aegean to Germany taken this year by half a million people, defying EU borders and unfurling razor wire.
After talks throughout Sunday evening that began with what officials described as a round of leaders "venting" at each other's conduct, the 11 governments issued a pledge to work together, along with a 17-point action plan that includes United Nations-aided accommodation for 100,000 people, half of them in Greece.
"Unilateral action may trigger a chain reaction," the joint statement read - reflecting what is already fact, as states have variously sealed off borders or moved and deposited busloads of undocumented migrants at their neighbors' frontiers.
"Countries affected should therefore talk to each other. Neighbors should work together along the route," the statement said.
Meeting host Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Union executive, said: "We have made very clear that the policy of simply waving people through must be stopped."
Merkel, whose poll ratings are sinking as she has opened Germany's borders to hundreds of thousands of Syrians, called for the meeting just 10 days after the last of several full EU summits devoted to the migration crisis. She said it was urgent to find a humane solution for tens of thousands of people stuck behind closing Balkan borders as autumn turns cold and wet.
"The pictures of the last few days are not in line with our values," she told reporters after extracting agreement from her peers to provide shelter, food and care for people on the move, helped where needed by EU aid and cheap international loans.