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EU, Balkans struggle to agree on refugees

October 25, 2015

Several leaders from the European Union and the Balkan states are holding a summit in Brussels over the refugee crisis. The talks come after Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia threatened to close their borders.

Slowenien Flüchtlinge bei Sentilj
Image: Reuters/L. Foeger

The mini-summit on Sunday will focus on the influx of asylum seekers to Europe, with some countries, such as Germany and Sweden, in favor of a relocation and distribution operation across the continent.

In an interview published on Sunday in German newspaper "Bild," President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker urged the countries to stop passing migrants to neighbouring states in "chaotic conditions." He added that EU states "must take care to uphold orderly procedures and conditions."

"The European Commission expects everyone to obey the rules of the game if we don't want to put Schengen at risk," Juncker said, referring to the EU's border-free zone.

Border closures

As thousands of refugees continue to arrive in Europe, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria warned on Saturday that they would not allow themselves to become a "buffer zone" and would close their borders if northern EU member states stop accepting asylum seekers.

"All three countries are ready if Germany and Austria and other countries close their borders […], we will be ready to also close our borders at that very same moment," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said following talks between the three Balkan leaders in Sofia.

Info graph: Where would refugees go under the EU Commission's plan?

Divided opinion

Europe is struggling to find a solution to deal with the unprecedented numbers of refugees. Around 670,000 people - mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan - have already arrived in Europe this year.

According to EU figures, Slovenia - which has a population of just 2 million people - recorded the arrival of more than 47,500 asylum seekers last week.

If Slovenia fails to receive some 140 million euros ($155 million) from Brussels to help cope with the crisis, Ljubljana has threatened to build its own barrier at the Slovenian-Croatian border. Neighboring Hungary has already sealad off its southern borders.

Fears ahead of winter

With winter temperatures already beginning to drop, human rights organization, Amnesty International, has warned that Europe could be faced with a humanitarian crisis if EU and Balkan leaders fail to quickly find a solution.

Juncker echoed the organization's fears on Sunday, telling "Bild" that "every day counts."

Without action, "we will soon witness families dying wretchedly in chilly rivers in the Balkans," Juncker warned.

ksb/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)