The European Union approved a plan on Tuesday to share out 120,000 refugees across its 28 states, despite vehement opposition from four eastern nations in the bloc.
“We would have preferred a consensus but we could not reach that, and it is not for want of trying,” Reuters quoted Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, as saying.
The European Commission had proposed the scheme with the backing of Germany and other big powers in order to tackle the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
But it caused a rift among the bloc’s older and newer members, with interior ministers of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary voting against the plan at a meeting in Brussels.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said pushing through the quota system had “nonsensically” caused a deep rift over a highly sensitive issue and that, “as long as I am prime minister”, Slovakia would not implement a quota.
And Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec tweeted: “We will soon realize that the emperor has no clothes. Common sense lost today.”
An influx of nearly half a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa has sparked bitter recriminations over how to share out responsibility.
Hungary and its eastern partners oppose the plan because they say Brussels has no right to make them take in thousands of people.
They argue that countries should decide for themselves what they can cope with.
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