Lengthy discussions but no agreement

Brussels – The unwillingness of some member states to accept asylum seekers and refugees under common burden-sharing schemes, remains a thorn in the side of the European Union.

Last week, the issue is said to have taken up more time than the discussion about Brexit for example, but EU leaders still failed to come together.

“Definitely there is a degree of disappointment to the fact that not all member states are living up to expectations,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said after the summit.

His views were echoed by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, as well as Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Loefven.
“Disappointed that EU as of yet didn’t reach a common solution on new asylum system,” Loefven said on Twitter.

Last week, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for their refusal to accept migrants from other EU member states under the relocation agreement.

But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called on his critics do adopt a different approach.

“There is another group of countries, this is that Hungary belongs to, that doesn’t see this as a solidarity or technical question, but a question of identity,” Orban said. “It’s impossible that someone else should decide the identities of our countries rather than ourselves.”

“Some European leaders” were guilty of a “double betrayal.”

Slovakia and Hungary have brought a case against the EU at the European Court of Justice for introducing a mandatory quota in September 2015 to redistribute up to 120,000 refugees from Italy and Greece across the bloc.

In an interview with eight European newspapers, French President Emmanuel Macron had said ahead of the summit that “some European leaders” were guilty of a “double betrayal.”

“They decide to abandon principles, to turn their back on Europe, to take a cynical approach to the union which is good for doling out funds without respecting its values. Europe is not a supermarket. Europe is a shared destiny.”

Macron was joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his plea for more solidarity on the issue.

Merkel called on her counterparts to put themselves in the shoes of their fellow leaders in Greece or Italy, the countries that are currently hosting the largest number of migrants.

Macron did acknowledge that the EU failed to react when the crisis began.  “We did not listen to Italy at the beginning,” he said.
“There was a lack of European solidarity to share the burden. It is a fact,” he added. But it remains unclear how this highly divisive issue can be resolved.

“The European Council will revert to these issues,” the final conclusions of the summit read.