Four EU states refuse migrant quotas amid ′biggest challenge′ in Union′s history | News | DW | 11.09.2015
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Four EU states refuse migrant quotas amid 'biggest challenge' in Union's history

Four eastern EU member states have stood by their rejection of compulsory quotas for migrants. Germany's foreign minister has warned that the refugee crisis could be "the biggest challenge for the EU in its history."

At a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in the Czech capital, Prague, on Friday, representatives from Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic maintained their hard-line stance towards plans announced by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, earlier this week.

In his state of the Union speech on Wednesday, Juncker called on all EU nations to agree to accept a compulsory resettlement plan to redistribute 160,000 migrants among the bloc's 28 member states. Apart from this proposal, Germany alone is already expecting to receive 800,000 migrants by the end of 2015.

The four eastern European countries refused to accept the plans on Friday, however, arguing that the numbers of refugees should be controlled by each individual EU member state.

"We're convinced that as countries we should keep control over the number of those we are able to accept and then offer them support," Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters at a joint press conference with his Hungarian, Polish and Slovak counterparts.

Hungary offered on Friday, however, to hold talks with non-EU neighbors Serbia and Macedonia regarding the refugee crisis.

"Budapest will be happy to host a conference that will tackle the cooperation between western countries and western Balkan countries," Peter Szijjarto said, adding that as of next week his country would prosecute anyone caught damaging border infrastructure.

Berlin support

In light of last weekend's huge influx of refugees to Germany, the country's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he expected an influx of around 40,000 new refugees over the next two days.

Germany, which is a strong advocate of Juncker's proposals saw the arrival of more than 15,000 refugees last weekend - hundreds of whom had been stranded in Budapest for days after Hungarian authorities temporarily stopped all trains heading for Austria and Germany.

"This challenge cannot be borne by one country. We have to invoke European Solidarity," Steinmeier said, calling for the support of his European counterparts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to put a figure on how many refugees could actually be granted asylum in Germany.

"The fundamental right to asylum for the politically persecuted knows no upper limit; that also goes for refugees who come to us from the hell of a civil war," Merkel said in an interview published in this Friday's edition of the "Rheinische Post" newspaper.

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ksb/pfd (AFP, Reuters)

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