Germany says EU majority vote could force members to accept migrants

A migrant mother waits with her toddler in a bus after arriving in Celle, Germany on Sept 17, 2015.
A migrant mother waits with her toddler in a bus after arriving in Celle, Germany on Sept 17, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

 BERLIN (AFP, REUTERS) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Friday (Sept 18) that EU members reluctant to accept migrant quotas may have to be outvoted and overruled in the 28-member bloc.

“It just cannot be that Germany, Austria, Sweden and Italy carry the burden alone,” he said about Europe’s biggest migrant crisis since World War II. “That’s not how European solidarity works.

“And if there is no other way, then we should seriously consider to use the instrument of a qualified majority,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse daily.

The 28 EU members usually aim for compromise and consensus on policies, but under the tool of a qualified majority vote, binding decisions can be taken if 55 per cent of nations representing 65 per cent of the total population agree.

Several eastern European countries, notably Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have strongly rejected the idea of accepting a share of migrants according to national quotas that reflect populations and economic strength.

Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned that countries that do not share European values of human empathy and solidarity cannot count on receiving money from the bloc.

In an interview with the newspaper Bild, he said: "Europe is a community of values based on human sympathy and solidarity. And those that don't share our values can't count on our money over time."

Gabriel was renewing a threat issued this week by his cabinet colleague, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere. Gabriel said that while Germany was opening gymnasiums, barracks and homes to refugee families, other countries were "laying barbed wire on their borders and closing the gates".

A meeting of EU interior ministers last Monday failed to reach a deal on quotas to distribute 120,000 migrants.

An extraordinary summit of the European Union has been scheduled for next Wednesday in Brussels, following a request by Berlin and Vienna.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has become the top EU destination for people fleeing wars and misery in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

It expects to receive between 800,000 and one million asylum seekers this year, generating extra costs close to 10 billion euros.

Amid a surge of newcomers in recent weeks, Germany, Austria and other members have reimposed identity checks on parts of their borders.