Refugee crisis summit does little but create arguments between EU members

Well that won’t go down as a triumph.

An emergency summit to tackle a crisis that is engulfing the EU, that is even - we are told - in danger of destroying the EU, and what do they come up with?

A bitter argument over forcing countries to accept refugees against their will, some money to help refugees still in camps, more talk of strengthening border controls and, well, that’s about it.

Another emergency summit and still there's not many answers. Credit: Reuters

Let’s start with the refugees already in Europe and in need of resettlement. Close to half a million are here (another 2,300+ landed in Lesbos just this morning) but so far they’ve been able to ‘agree’ on what to do with barely a third of them. 160,000, to be precise. They are to be redistributed through compulsory quotas, but how this will work no one has yet explained.

Migrants walk towards Hungarian border after arriving in Botovo, Croatia. Credit: Reuters

Four countries, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic and Solvakia, alll voted against the idea but were over-ruled.

Poland was a very reluctant ‘yes’. Slovakia is saying ‘no way’ and talking about legal action. So how can countries be forced to accept their ‘share’, and how can reluctant refugees be made to stay in a country they don’t want to be in? We await answers.

Germany’s Angela Merkel admitted this morning that what’s been done is only a “first step”. She can say that again.

Fans of Werder Bremen hold a banner reading 'Refugees Welcome' during a Bundesliga match. Credit: Reuters

But while she was fending off criticism that Germany’s open invitation to refugees had aggravated rather than eased this crisis, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, was doing some straight talking of his own.

Tusk is from Poland and seems to share his countrymen’s view of unlimited immigration from the Middle East. He warned that there are 12 million displaced Syrians both inside and outside Syria’s borders, and the EU is struggling and bickering over what to do with just 1% of that number.

If we don’t secure Europe’s external borders, he warned, Schengen and free-movement will collapse, potentially bringing down the whole EU with it.

Timmermans warns that the crisis could see the rise of the Far Right again. Credit: Reuters

The number two in the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, was similarly apocalyptic. Carry on like this, he warned, and we are going to see a massive rise in the far right in Europe.

For the time being Europe’s response consists of throwing a great deal more money at the problem - €1bn to Turkey alone - to try to keep refugees in the country’s bordering Syria.

And it’s going to talk some more.

Another summit will be dominated by this issue in October. There will be an attempt to set up so-called ‘Hotspots’ where refugees can be properly processed and housed prior to a decision on where they should be assessed and then settled.

But Italy and Greece, the two countries receiving the great bulk of new arrivals, are both determined that ‘Hotspots’ will not be sited on their territory. Which is going to be awkward, to say the least.

The flow of refugee boats across the Med may ease as winter sets in. Credit: Reuters

The weather may soon give Europe some respite when the Mediterranean gets too rough for small boats, and the cold too intense for people to risk long periods sleeping outdoors.

If so, the EU will have a few months in which to try to get its policies together before spring arrives, and the whole cycle starts over. But how is the continent going to use that time? It had better achieve more than it did last night.