Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, slammed Council President Donald Tusk yesterday (7 September) for not playing his role in solving the refugee crisis.
Verhofstadt, a former Belgian Prime Minister, criticised Tusk for refusing to come to the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg (7-10 September). During the Parliament’s opening session on Monday, Verhofstadt’s proposal to summon Tusk to Strasbourg was supported by acclamation.
“It is incomprehensible to me that Tusk doesn’t seem to understand he has a key role to play in solving this crisis. If nothing else, he should come to the European Parliament to explain why EU member states have totally failed to reach a common position; this is one of the biggest human tragedy since the foundation of the EU. Why is he refusing to organise an extraordinary summit to deal with this humanitarian disaster? It is unacceptable that he refuses to do his job,” Verhofstadt stated.
Verhofstadt compared the refugee crisis to the eurozone crisis, when many summits and Eurogroup meetings were held to seek solutions.
“EU member states met more than 80 times to find a deal with Greece, but cannot now even try and put in place a solution to avoid the loss of more lives. Money seems to be more important than human lives,” the ALDE leader said.
In the meantime, Tusk delivered a speech at the annual dinner of Bruegel, a Brussels-based economic think tank, in which he addressed the migration challenge and called on EU leaders to “redouble their efforts, when it comes to solidarity with the members facing this unprecedented migratory wave”.
Tusk said that an “enormous effort” was demanded of EU institutions, which implied a major increase in spending.
“The present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which only means that we will have to deal with this problem for many years to come. Therefore it is so important to learn how to live with it without blaming each other,’ he stated.
The Polish Council President is known to be sympathetic to the positions of central European countries who are reluctant to take in migrants and who reject the mandatory quotas and a permanent mechanism for the relocation of refugees, as they were proposed by the Commission.
“We need to think about our Europe with greater tenderness and patience. We need to protect her not only against external threats when they appear, but also against internal temptations for revolutionary and total changes,” Tusk said.
‘Zero chance’ for EU treaty change
The Council President also touched upon the push to improve the Economic and Monetary Union, insisting that the reform should take place without a treaty change.
“I am well aware that some politicians, not least in Germany, would disagree, but their claims are either an overstatement or an excuse not to change. […] If someone is not convinced, then I invite them for a trip across Europe to check the chances of a harmonious treaty change ratification process. My bet is zero,” Tusk said.