The Levant News – – European Union leaders could promise billions of euros in new funding for Syrian refugees at an emergency summit on Wednesday where they will also try to patch up bitter divisions over the migration crisis.
Meeting for dinner a day after interior ministers overrode furious objections from four eastern states in a vote that will distribute asylum-seekers around the bloc according to mandatory national quotas, government leaders will try to focus on ways to curb the inflow of migrants that has hit records this summer.
But feelings are running high as chaotic crowds and varied responses from national capitals have seen borders close inside Europe’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone and diplomats expect “theatrics” from some of the 28 leaders as each seeks to shore up domestic support in the face of fears of immigration.
“Today … a concrete plan must finally appear in place of the arguments and the chaos we have witnessed in the last weeks,” said European Council President Donald Tusk, who will chair the 28 leaders’ first full EU summit in three months.
On a day when the Greek island of Lesbos saw 2,500 people land in dozens of dinghies from Turkey, Tusk said arrivals that already exceed half a million this year were likely to increase and that Europe must “regain control of our external borders” or risk destroying the Schengen system and the “European spirit”.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels before the summit starts at 6 p.m. (12:00 noon EDT), he forecast an agreement for more help for refugees who stay in the Middle East, via funds for U.N. agencies, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and others. “Frontline” states like Greece andItaly should also get help on their frontiers.
Around the Council table, German Chancellor Angela Merkel may face criticism of her move last month to take in more Syrians, an action some of her eastern neighbors say fueled the inflow. Even Tusk, a former Polish premier, said without naming Merkel that most refugees “feel invited to Europe”.
The German leader stressed on arrival that it was time for Europeans to work together. “Faced with a great challenge, it cannot be that Europe says ‘We can’t handle this’,” Merkel said.
“That’s why I say again and again: We can do this.”
Re-elected Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will hear calls from the north to use new EU support — both in money and manpower — to tighten controls on the bloc’s Mediterranean frontiers.
Establishing a principle of “relocating” some asylum-seekers has been a key demand of Rome in particular, which wants to end a rule that states they should remain in the first EU state they enter. Northern countries accuse Italy and Greece of undermining the Schengen area by simply letting migrants move on unchecked.