Tusk threatens leaders with another summit

Council President Donald Tusk organises and chairs EU summits. [European Council]

Council President Donald Tusk tweeted today (11 September) that he will call an extraordinary summit if the Union’s justice and home affairs ministers fail to reach an agreement, based on the Commission’s plan to redistribute 160,000 refugees among them.

On Wednesday (9 September) Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, appealed to governments to share the refugee burden, and help relieve frontline states such as Greece, Italy and Hungary.

>>Read: Juncker defies EU countries with distribution plan for 160,000 refugees

EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday (14 September) to seek agreement based on this plan. Several countries said they were against the proposed mandatory quotas, but no consensus is required, as the decision needs to be taken with qualified majority.

Germany (31,443) and France (24,031) would shoulder the bulk of the burden, followed by Spain (14,931), Poland (9,287) and the Netherlands (7,214).

The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, who have opt-outs for migratory issues, do not figure in the Commission’s refugee distribution plan, but would be free to participate on a voluntary basis.

A number of EU countries are against the mandatory quotas, some of them saying that they cannot host large number of refugees. As a gesture to them, the Juncker plan foresees a “temporary solidarity clause” which allows the respective country to pay a sum to the EU budget, instead of receiving its share of refugees.

“If – for justified and objective reasons such as a natural disaster – a Member State cannot temporarily participate totally or in part in a relocation decision, it will have to make a financial contribution to the EU budget of an amount of 0.002% of its GDP,” the Juncker plan says.

The financial contribution is not heavy. EURACTIV has calculated that if Poland refuses to take refugees, the sum it would pay to the EU budget is of €10.5 million. 

Tusk tweeted that without a “concrete sign of solidarity” from the ministerial meeting on Monday, he would call an extraordinary summit. It is assumed that the summit will take place on Friday, 25 September.

The news of a possible extraordinary summit is hardly a surprise. Polish PM Ewa Kopacz said a few days ago that the European summit which is to deal with Europe’s refugee crisis is likely to take place earlier than planned. She and Tusk, who was Poland’s Prime Minister before her, are assumed to be in close telephone contact.

>>Read: Poland says EU summit on migration likely next week

Very soon afterwards, Tusk tweeted that following contacts with EU heads of state and government, he was “more hopeful” that a deal was within reach.

EU leaders are reportedly sick and tired of summits. Moreover, summits can get out of hand and be counterproductive, especially if they are ill-prepared. Tusk has spent the last few days travelling to Israel, Palestine, Turkey and Cyprus and has hardly had much time to concentrate on preparing an extraordinary summit.

A summit on migration held on 23 April is the perfect example that its organisers were unable to contain the anti-immigration feelings of many EU leaders.

>>Read: EU leaders to declare: ‘We cannot take more migrants’

>>Read: Juncker suffers double blow on immigration at summit

Subscribe to our newsletters