EU refugee summit dangles relief for overwhelmed Balkan countries

Amid high tensions, European leaders at Sunday's meeting agreed to expand capacity for tens of thousands of refugees arriving in Greece and the western Balkans.

Francois Lenoir/Reuters
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attended a summit over the Balkan refugee crisis with leaders from central and eastern Europe in Brussels on Sunday.

Leaders of the European nations most affected by the refugee crisis running from Greece to Germany agreed to a plan to increase accommodations for asylum seekers by another 100,000 people and improve coordination between the governments involved.

But the fractious meeting, convened Sunday by the European Commission in Brussels, also laid bare the difficulty of finding a common solution to a problem that one leader warned could result in Europe "falling apart."

Under the 17-point plan reached at the summit, attended by the 11 countries most affected along the "Balkan route" of migration, including three non-EU members, Greece will increase its reception capacity by another 30,000 people by the end of the year.

UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, will work with the Greek government to subsidize the cost of housing another 20,000 migrants. The agency will also expand accommodations for another 50,000 people at multiple locations along the Balkan route between Greece and northern Europe. 

Moreover, the summit attendees – which included eight EU members as well as Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), and Serbia – agreed to improve communication between themselves. They will establish a network for daily coordination "to achieve the gradual, controlled and orderly movement" of refugees along the route and increase the collection and sharing of refugee biometric information to track applications of those seeking refuge and asylum.

The agreement came only after "a round of leaders 'venting' at each other's conduct," reports Reuters, and many obstacles remain to a coordinated response. The past couple of weeks saw several rounds of blame traded between the Balkan countries as border closings briefly halted the refugees en route to Germany and Scandinavia.

Slovenia, one of the EU's smallest member states, was particularly outspoken Sunday: Prime Minister Miro Cerar warned that his country had "received more than 60,000 migrants in the last 10 days, 13,000 in one day," an influx he called "absolutely unbearable," reports Bloomberg.

“If we do not deliver some immediate and concrete actions on the ground in the next few days and weeks, I do believe that the European Union and Europe as a whole will start falling apart,” he said.

The summit plan designated that Slovenia will receive support in order to deploy another 400 police officers to deal with the influx. Slovenia last week authorized its Army to aid its overwhelmed police force in managing the migrants.

Deutsche Welle's Riegert Bernd writes that the agreement, while only a "list of short-term measures," indicates the crisis "will hopefully be managed more humanely. The transit of refugees from Greece to Germany will also hopefully become more orderly."

But, he warns, a long-term resolution will still require patience and resolve, as the flow of humanity is not going to stop.

Until the EU's external borders are protected again, until refugees and asylum seekers can be registered and cared for in Greece or Italy, or even sent back, then weeks, if not months of the same situation lie ahead. It could also take months until Turkey begins to pull its weight too. Can Germany, can Merkel hold on so long?

The whole Balkan refugee chain will only continue to work as long as Germany and some other countries take in refugees at the end. If Germany or Austria close off their borders, there would be utter chaos in the Balkans. Some countries have therefore openly threatened the chancellor, saying they too would seal off their borders - making Merkel personally responsible for the swelling influx of refugees. The end of the EU as we know it would then be inevitable.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to EU refugee summit dangles relief for overwhelmed Balkan countries
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today