Germany wants to cut European Union funding to countries that refuse to share the burden of hosting refugees under a quota system. A crisis meeting of EU ministers failed to reach an agreement on managing the influx.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (pictured above) said Tuesday there needed to be a discussion about how to put pressure on member states who are resisting a plan to distribute refugees across the bloc.
Several eastern countries have rejected a proposal from the EU executive Commission for compulsory quotas to distribute 120,000 refugees. Crisis talks between interior ministers from the 28-country union ended on Monday with Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic expressing strong opposition to the plan.
"Those countries that are refusing - nothing happens to them. The refugees simply pass them by," de Maiziere told German public broadcaster ZDF.
"We need to talk about ways of exerting pressure. These are often countries that receive a lot of structural funds from the European Union," he said.
De Maiziere added that EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker had suggested - "and I find that right" - that "we should talk about [them] getting less money from the structural funds."
A spokeswoman for the Commission later said that Juncker "has never said this."
Current agreements with EU states "do not provide a legal basis to reduce European structural and investment funds allocations if a member state refuses binding (refugee) relocation mechanisms," spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said.
"To introduce such conditionality...is not something we are currently exploring."
Germany urges 'fair' distribution
Germany is expecting to receive some 800,000 refugees this year - about four times as many as last year and a significant amount more than other EU member countries. De Maziere on Tuesday said he stood by this forecast, despite Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel's prediction the number of arrivals could end up being as high as 1 million.
"I don't want to change that forecast," de Maiziere told ZDF.
Germany has been pushing for other countries to host their fair share of refugees at a time when record numbers fleeing war and hardship in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are arriving in Europe.
Speaking one day after the meeting of EU ministers, Vice Chancellor Gabriel said Europe had "disgraced itself" by failing to come to a consensus on quotas.
He called for the bloc's leaders to gather for another summit on the refugee crisis, and said countries needed to understand that "the whole of Europe is at stake."
"Our country can't solve the refugee problems of half the world by itself," he said.
Thousands of migrants have been streaming into Germany from Austria since the government opened its doors to refugees from Syria's civil war a week ago. In an attempt to slow the influx, Berlin decided Sunday to temporarily reintroduce border controls, saying it would help authorities process asylum seekers in a more orderly manner.
Other states followed suit on Monday. Austria and Slovakia took similar steps to start checking passports at their frontiers, and the Netherlands said it was putting in place "more patrols" at border crossings. Poland said it was poised to also boost security if there was a "threat," while Hungary on Tuesday locked down its border with Serbia to prevent migrants from entering.
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nm/jil (AFP, Reuters)