Refugee crisis to test EU at summit of divided leaders

Updated: 2015-09-21 09:01


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Refugee crisis to test EU at summit of divided leaders

Migrants and refugees camp in the port at the Greek island of Lesbos September 20, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

On Saturday, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the EU needed to provide 1.5 billion euros ($1.70 billion) to the two agencies to address funding shortfalls.

The EU prides itself on cementing peace among countries that until World War Two fought bloody battles and fostering prosperity by removing internal barriers among its member states through the so-called Schengen agreement.

But the more than 500,000 people crossing the Mediterranean into Europe this year alone and Hungary's use of water cannon and razor wire on its border with Serbia have seen the EU's ambitions to act as one fall short.

The picture of a dead toddler washed up on a beach in Turkey sent shockwaves around the continent. On Sunday 13 migrants, including six children, were killed as their boat was wrecked in Turkish waters.

"The (Schengen) agreements are now part of our daily lives and it is unthinkable that the facilities enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of travellers and cross-border workers in Europe are challenged by nationalist and reactionary thoughts and political actions," said Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs for Luxembourg.

As the holder of the rotating presidency of the EU, Luxembourg is working to broker a compromise that can break the deadlock between member states on sharing the burden of the crisis.

EU interior ministers, meeting on Tuesday, are expected to agree on a voluntary relocation scheme to redistribute 160,000 refugees from frontline states across the EU, a fraction of the total entering Europe.

French President Francois Hollande said he wanted the interior ministers to address the most difficult aspects of the migration crisis by Tuesday so that EU leaders could focus exclusively on financing at Wednesday's summit.

"I really wish all these issues to be solved by the ministers' reunion," Hollande said on Sunday during a state visit to Morocco.

EU ambassadors met on Sunday to try to hammer out compromises ahead of Tuesday's meeting but several issues still needed to be solved and work would continue until then, said a spokeswoman for the EU presidency.

Germany's Gabriel warned that the country could be overwhelmed by the 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers it expects to receive this year. Most of the migrants hope to reach prosperous Germany or Sweden.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the United States would take in 15,000 more refugees from around the world next year, increasing the current level to 85,000, and to 100,000 in 2017.