The European Union approved a plan on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) to share out 120,000 refugees across its 28 states, overriding vehement opposition from four ex-communist eastern nations.
Diplomats said interior ministers meeting in Brussels had voted to launch the scheme, backed by Germany and other big powers, in order to tackle the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
The Czech minister tweeted that he had voted against, along with colleagues from Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, with Finland abstaining.
So being a member of the EU now means other countries decide your refugee quota for you. What will they do if countries refuse?
At present most in the UK want to remain in the EU, but how the EU deals with this issue may change that.
Prague had earlier warned that any attempt to impose such a scheme would be unworkable and could end in “big ridicule” for governments and EU authorities.
“We will soon realise that the emperor has no clothes. Common sense lost today,” Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec tweeted after the vote.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said pushing through the quota system had “nonsensically” caused a deep rift over a highly sensitive issue and that, “as long as I am prime minister”, Slovakia would not implement a quota.
“If we fail to find the right solution in the long term, the migrant crisis could truly threaten the existence of the European Union. But I am not a pessimist, I believe that we will find joint measures,” Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar told Reuters in an interview.
The reason for the opposition:
Eastern states with no tradition of integrating large numbers of Muslims are anxious about the impact on their societies and keen to avoid any signal that might encourage even more desperate people to set sail across the Mediterranean for Europe.
This is the same issue Australia has had. If you don’t take a hard line, then you encourage hundreds of thousands more to set sail.
Countries should take refugees – but from the refugee camps through the UNHCR system. Encouraging people to set sail to Europe will only end badly.