Balkan leaders urge action by EU | News | DW | 27.08.2015
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Balkan leaders urge action by EU

Serbia and Macedonia's foreign ministers have called for the European Union to increase aid to western Balkan states. The bulk of Mideast refugees is transiting through impoverished ex-Yugoslavian states.

Serbia and Macedonia made a joint call Thursday for more concrete aid as tens of thousands of migrants flow through their countries, overwhelming local authorities.

The remarks came as European leaders attend a migrant crisis summit in Vienna.

"We are faced with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. It is a true migration of peoples and Serbia is a transit country," Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic told reporters in the Austrian capital. "This is a problem of the European Union, and we (the transit countries) are expected to come up with an action plan."

Since the start of 2015, Serbian officials said, some 94,000 migrants mainly from Syria and Afghanistan have registered in Serbia after transiting EU states such as Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.

"I have to be very direct here," Dacic said. "Please understand, we are bearing the brunt of the problem."

Germany says burden must be shared

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier reiterating his call for a reform of the Dublin Accords "to distribute refugees fairly within the EU."

He said that Germany would contribute 1 million euros ($1.11 million dollars) to help the Western Balkans countries cope with the migrants, as well as food and other supplies.

But Macedonia, which is currently accepting at least 3,000 refugees daily from its border with Greece, said even that would be inadequate.

"We are not going to do the job with the 90,000 euros that we have received so far and we are probably not going to reach the objective with the 1 million euros that have been announced," Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said.

Flüchtlinge Mazedonien Griechenland Grenze

A little girl cries as she tries to take shelter from the rain on Greece's border with Macedonia, as she waits with her family to enter Gevgelija, Macedonia August 22, 2015.

Macedonia on the front lines

Earlier this month Macedonia came under international criticism after it sealed its border and attempted to hold back tens of thousands of refugees with riot police, tear gas and armored vehicles.

After two days of a violent impasse, it relented and reopened its frontier allowing the migrants to pass through to Serbia and ultimately EU member Hungary where the migrants hope to enter the European Union.

"Unless we have a European answer to this issue, none of us should be under any illusion that this will be solved," Poposki added.

Diplomats from the former Yugoslavian republics argue that as the refugees are bound for wealthier EU member states such as Germany, Sweden and France, they should be compensated for the burden caused by the crisis in the small, relatively impoverished Balkan states.

Germany argues that nearly 40 percent of the projected 800,000 migrants it will receive this year will arrive from western Balkan states and argues it is under no obligation to grant asylum to economic migrants from former Yugoslavia as opposed to war refugees from Syria and Afghanistan.

At the Vienna meeting, Steinmeier reiterated his call for Balkan governments "to help manage the expectations of your citizens and provide them with a realistic picture of their virtually non-existent chances of being granted asylum in Germany."

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jar/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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