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Key talks in Prague amid quota row

September 11, 2015

The foreign ministers of Germany and Luxembourg are to meet with their counterparts from four eastern EU states to discuss the refugee crisis. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have rejected EU quotas.

Ungarn Flüchtlinge an der Grenze zu Österreich
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Zak

Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Jean Asselborn of Luxembourg are expected to use Friday's meeting with their counterparts from the members of the so-called Visegrad group of European Union nations to try to convince them to accept proposals laid out by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday.

In his state of the Union speech, among other things, 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.

Juncker's plan is supported by Berlin and was approved by members of the European Parliament on Thursday. However, for it to work, it will have to win the support of all EU member states.

Infografik Wo werden Flüchtlinge umgesiedelt laut EU Englisch neu

The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have already signaled their unwillingness to comply with the Commission's proposals for sharing the burden of asylum applications. This comes despite the fact that according to Juncker, Hungary, which has been the EU-entry point for thousands of migrants in recent days, would stand to benefit from his proposal, as it would provide for the orderly redistribution of refugees already there.

Record-setting day in Hungary

Friday's meeting in Prague comes as the authorities in Hungary and Germany continue to cope with a wave of refugees from conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq, which shows no sign of letting up. Hungarian authorities said on Thursday that they had registered more than 3,300 people entering the EU country from Serbia - the highest number for a single day so far. The number of people who crossed the border without being registered was not clear.

Most of the migrants appeared to be seeking to reach Europe's biggest economy, Germany, but the flow of refugees became so large on Thursday, that along the route, Austria's national rail carrier, ÖBB elected to suspend services from Hungary.

"Ever more people are arriving daily," said an ÖBB spokesman. "It far exceeds our capacity."

'No upper limit' to asylum seekers

Meanwhile, as local authorities struggled to cope with the growing wave of migrants entering the country from the south, Chancellor Angela Merkel refused to put a figure on how many people the Germany could absorb.

"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.

On Thursday, her deputy Sigmar Gabriel said Germans should look at the influx as an opportunity.

"If we manage to train quickly those that come to us and to get them into work, then we will solve one of our biggest problems for the economic future of our country: the skills shortage," he said during a debate in the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

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pfd/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)