French PM rejects permanent quota system for refugees

French PM rejects permanent quota system for refugees

By Andreas Rinke & Tatiana Jancarikova

MUNICH/BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – French Prime Minister Manuel Valls rejected on Saturday the idea of a permanent quota system for distributing refugees across Europe, putting Paris at odds with Germany ahead of a summit to discuss the EU crisis over migration.

Speaking to reporters at a security conference in Munich, Valls said France would stick to its pledge to take on 30,000 of the 160,000 refugees European countries have agreed to divide among themselves, yet would not accept additional numbers.

p> "We won't take any more," Valls said. He expressed admiration for Germany's readiness to take on more refugees, yet added: "France never said 'come to France'."

Merkel is expected to push European partners to accept so-called "contingents" of refugees at a meeting on Thursday in Brussels, shortly before European Union leaders come together for their summit.

Cobbling together a coalition of countries that is ready to accept more asylum seekers over time is crucial to Merkel's efforts to convince Turkey to stem the tide of refugees fleeing countries in the Middle East, notably Syria. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend the pre-summit meeting.

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A migrant woman holds a child at a migrant center near the village of Adasevci, Serbia February 12,  …

"France rejects this," Valls said of the permanent quota mechanism. He said France had already received 80,000 asylum applications last year & was struggling with youth radicalization & high unemployment.

In another sign of Europe's deep divisions over the influx of migrants & refugees, Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said Germany had protested against plans by eastern European leaders to assist Macedonia & Bulgaria seal their border with Greece, the entry point into the EU for many migrants.

Leaders of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia & the Czech Republic, known as the Visegrad Group, meet on Monday in Prague with their Macedonian & Bulgarian counterparts & could offer them manpower & other aid, diplomats said on Friday.

Closure of Greece's northern borders could strand migrants in Greece, which has been struggling to protect its sea borders as the huge influx of migrants & refugees arrive via Turkey.

"We want an agreement among the Visegrad Four countries that if Greece is not working, & it's not working, it makes more sense to invest money into the protection of borders between Greece & Macedonia, Bulgaria & other countries," Fico said.

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A man uses a mobile device as migrants & refugees wait to continue their train journey to western  …

Berlin, however, has said the countries should seek a different solution.

"We received a demarche (saying) how do we dare as V4, Bulgaria & Macedonia to discuss protection of external borders. Germany has filed a protest with our deputy foreign affairs minister because of this summit, saying we need to seek another way," he said.

As the European Union gave notice to Athens on Friday that its failure to control hundreds of thousands of refugees landing via Turkey over the past year will see a long-term suspension of some passport-free travel in Europe, EU officials said they expected more border tightening by Greece's Balkan neighbors.

Concern at a "domino effect" of border closures rippling down the Balkan peninsula to Greece & leaving large numbers of Syrians, Iraqis & others stranded in some of Europe's poorest countries, has prompted the EU to offer aid & cooperation to those states, all of them candidates to join the bloc.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Politics & GovernmentForeign PolicyManuel Valls

Source: “Reuters”

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