Speaking to journalists at the start of the Bratislava summit today (16 September), Parliament President Martin Schulz admitted that the system of relocating refugees based on mandatory quotas isn’t working and that the Visegrad Group is expected to table an alternative proposal.
Leaders of 27 member states are meeting today for an informal summit, in the absence of the UK, to begin a discussion about the future of Europe, and to address burning political issues, such as the refugee crisis.
Schulz called the Bratislava summit “one of the most important ones”. Following the 26 June Brexit referendum, EU leaders have to decide “which EU we want”, he said, adding “the EU will be as strong as the member states allow it”.
The European Parliament President said he hopes the Bratislava summit will show a desire for more unity. If there are conclusions to the summit, they should say that the EU’s leaders are sticking together, and that they are ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century, such as migration, terrorism, the stabilization of the euro, and “focusing on what is unifying us, instead to deepen every day what is dividing us”.
EURACTIV.com asked Schulz that if, following his logic, divisive issues would be better left aside, whether it wouldn’t be wise to abandon the mandatory quota and relocation system, which has proven to be largely inefficient.
Schulz said this was a point which would be “intensively discussed” at the Bratislava summit. He reminded reporters that all the measures undertaken to deal with the refugee crisis at EU level had been taken in the framework of the Lisbon Treaty. This is how the relocation scheme was decided, although Slovakia challenged the decision in court.
“But we see on the other hand, that despite the correct legal way, [the relocation] doesn’t function. What I expect (is) that those who say this is wrong [will] make their proposals. My feeling is they are about to make such proposals.” He added that he has had feedback from Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, and the Visegrad Group, to this effect.
‘Better have a solution that functions’
“All these proposals are welcome. I’m among those who say that if mandatory solutions don’t function, better (to) have a voluntary one that functions, or (that) a combination between both is found, in the interest of the refugees.”
Schulz said that he held a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán this morning. Schulz, who was the “Spitzenkandidat” of the Socialists, made reference to a derogatory statement Orbán made about him and other EU leaders, including the leading candidates of the other two pro-European political groups, the EPP and ALDE.
“Nihilists from Brussels’
“Mr. Orbán recently described Mr. Juncker, Mr. Verhofstadt and me as ‘nihilists from the Brussels’ elites’. It’s the first time in my life that I hear I’m part of an elite. It makes me happy, but as a nihilist, I didn’t know it,” he said, smiling.
Schultz added that he had told Orbán, instead of discussing his qualifications, that it would be better “to discuss things we have in common”.
“It was a very confrontative, open-minded, but at the end, also fruitful meeting because I felt even with Viktor Orbán, the will to come to calm conclusions is there,” Schulz said. He commented that he was not “super-optimistic” about the sides coming closer, but not pessimistic either, “taking into account the situation”.
Asked about another statement by Orbán, about the need for Brexit to spark a “cultural counterrevolution” in the EU,” Schulz made it clear that he disagreed with the strategy of re-nationalising EU policies. These, he said, were solutions of the 19th century to deal with challenges of the 21st century.
The summit is expected to end tonight by 18:30.