segunda-feira, 16 de novembro de 2015
‘Divisions are getting deeper’
‘Divisions are getting deeper’
The Paris attacks show signs of splintering Europe’s fragile agreement to relocate thousands of refugees.
By JACOPO BARIGAZZI 11/16/15, 8:33 PM CET Updated 11/16/15, 8:54 PM CET
The already fragile support among EU countries for a common approach to the migration crisis was at risk of unraveling further in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris, diplomats said Monday.
EU foreign ministers met in Brussels for previously scheduled talks on the Middle East and the refugee situation, and made a public show of solidarity in support of France.
Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said after the meeting that Europe will “take a careful look” at French President François Hollande’s call to invoke an EU treaty provision that provides “aid and assistance” in the event of “armed aggression” on a member country.
But behind the scenes diplomats said the attacks threatened to widen existing divisions on the migration issues, and could force a rethink of plans for a permanent system to relocate refugees from the Middle East across Europe.
Reports that at least one of the attackers may have entered Europe with a group of asylum-seekers gave ammunition to several countries, such as Poland and Hungary, that have long resisted EU mandates that they take in refugees.
“In terms of foreign policy the attacks have united European countries in their battle against Muslim radicals,” one diplomat said. “But it is internally that divisions are getting deeper.”
The European Commission wants a system of permanent relocation of refugees, with EU countries agreeing to take in asylum-seekers who travel from Syria and Libya through southern Europe. Diplomats said the attacks were undermining support for the plan, which had already been controversial before the Paris attacks raised questions about the flow of refugees into Europe.
“Some delegations before the meeting were discussing possible links between migration and terrorism, an issue that will increasingly emerge in the next days,” one diplomat said.
“Terrorists have exploited mass migration,” Orbán told lawmakers Monday in a speech titled “Attack on Europe.”
Hardliners on the issue, such as the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, made that link openly Monday.
“In a deliberate and organized way, terrorists have exploited mass migration by mingling in the mass of people leaving their homes in the hope of a better life,” Orbán told lawmakers Monday in a speech titled “Attack on Europe.”
That echoed comments made on Saturday by Poland’s future European affairs minister, Konrad Szymański, who said the country would not take part in the relocation scheme “in light of the tragic events in Paris.”
Hollande, speaking to a joint session of the French Parliament Monday afternoon, took a different view, saying Europe had a responsibility to welcome refugees fleeing oppression even as he vowed to “destroy” ISIL in retaliation for the Paris attacks. “To mix refugees and terrorism takes us to nothing, towards chaos,” he said.
Some countries that have been vocal opponents of a permanent mechanism for relocating refugees, such as Lithuania, also openly rejected the possibility of a link between terrorism and refugees.
Members of the German government, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), Vice Chancellor and Economy and Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel (L) and Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (R), sign a book of condolences at the French Embassy in Berlin.
“We cannot link refugees to terrorism,” the country’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, told reporters before the Monday’s meeting.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told reporters after leaving the meeting: “In today’s discussion everybody agreed that there are differences in migration policies but everybody also agreed that no one can accept a link between terrorist acts and migration.”
The debate is likely to heat up before an emergency meeting of EU interior ministers set to take place on Friday. The relocation issue will be on the agenda, as will the future of the Schengen agreement on passport-free travel in Europe — which is also being questioned after Paris.
During their talks on Monday, EU foreign ministers focused on agreeing a common approach to finding a political solution in Syria and the Middle East generally.
They also discussed the the outcome of last week’s Valletta summit on implementing migration policies, where a possible deal with Turkey on controlling the flow of refugees was discussed.
On that score ministers were happy with the steps forward made by the Commission, according to one diplomat, who added however that some countries stressed that the EU cannot approach Turkey only from the point of view of migration if it wants to avoid depending on Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to stem the flow.
EU cooperation with Turkey should not focus only on migration but it should have “multiple dimensions,” Mogherini told reporters after the meeting.
Following the Paris attacks, France launched air strikes against the ISIL positions in the Syrian city of Raqqa.
But after their meeting Monday, EU foreign ministers reiterated their support for continuing diplomatic efforts they say have made progress in recent months, including in talks in Vienna over the weekend.
In Vienna, the U.S., Russia and the EU set a target date of January 1, 2016, for formal negotiations to start between the Assad regime and the opposition. The aim is to achieve a ceasefire that does not apply to the intensifying fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Mogherini said.
But divisions remain inside and outside the bloc on that issue, too. France has been pushing for the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to leave in the transition process, while Germany had a softer approach.
“We have to speak with many actors, this includes Assad, but others as well,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in September.