Feature: Refugee crisis continues to create rift between pro-Europeans, Eurosceptics

October 29, 2015 5:32 am 

STRASBOURG, Oct. 28 — Members of European Parliament (MEPs), meeting for a plenary session here, confronted each other Tuesday during a long, spirited debate held to examine measures decided on during the mini-summit organized by the European Commission Sunday in Brussels, to deal with the refugee crisis in the western Balkans.

In front of a noisy and sometimes unruly hemicycle, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk struggled on Tuesday morning to convince MEPs of progress made by the European Union (EU) regarding migration policy.

"Sunday's mini-summit that I convoked permitted an honest debate, occasionally tense, marked a day of unity and lead to some commitments," affirmed Juncker during the opening of the debate, while underlining that such a meeting "would not have been necessary" to permit the execution of the conclusions from the European summit on Oct. 15.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said, "there is not yet a veritable spirit of European cooperation."

"We cannot allow ourselves another failure. This crisis is a test of credibility for our values and must be a catalyst in order to move toward more Europe," he argued.

"Every day counts," declared Juncker, as a humanitarian crisis is looming in the Balkans where, according to the UN, more than 500,000 migrants mostly from the Middle East have arrived.

The creation of 100,000 reception places for the refugees in Greece and in the Balkans announced at the end of Sunday's mini-summit was not, however, received with enthusiasm in the ranks of the European Parliament.

Between the Eurosceptics, which don't miss an occasion to make the refugee crisis into the symbol of the collapse of the EU, and the pro-Europeans, who observe with vexation the absence of a common migration policy and the militarization of external EU borders, divisions continue to grow.

"The refugee crisis isn't a competition between the political groups of the European Parliament! The populists want to use the migration crisis to destroy Europe," deplored Guy Verhofstadt, speaking for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

"The European Council from December must make decisions on the common borders and translate them on the budgetary plan in order to put in place a real multinational border police," he added.

The joint declaration adopted on Sunday prescribes 17 measures set to "restore order" to EU borders, "slow the uncontrolled flux of people" and "discourage the movement of refugees or migrants toward the border of another country in the region."

Nearly 400 police officers should be sent to assist Slovenia, a small country of two million inhabitants where 60,000 migrants have entered since mid-October, and which has become a new transit zone since Hungary, most notably, closed its external borders with the EU.

In an interview published Sunday with the popular German daily newspaper Bild, the President of the European Commission called the Balkan countries to break with the "policy of letting pass."

It was a line not to the taste of certain MEPs, such as the leader of the radical Spanish left Podemos, Pablo Iglesias who didn't hesitate to question Juncker directly and to condemn vehemently the "crocodile tears" shed during the debate while "the humiliation and the misery of the refugees continue."

At the approach of the international summit on migration which is scheduled to be held in Malta Nov. 11 and 12, the President of the European Commission could only call on European leaders to stop mutually accusing each other and to respect their commitments, not only morally, but financially.

"Before its African friends, the EU must be at the rendezvous, pockets filled, not only with promises but also with commitments," he declared. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/EBP

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