EU Lawmakers Blasted|for Refugee Response

     (CN) – European Council president Donald Tusk ripped fellow lawmakers over the EU’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis in an “invitation letter” to join him at a special session to tackle the issue.
     “The crisis we are all witnessing is a test of our humanity and responsibility. It causes many tensions and accusations among politicians and people in Europe. I have no illusions that Europe will need to deal with this challenge for many years to come,” Tusk said in a letter to European Council members sent late Friday.
     More than 200,000 refugees – most of them escaping the Syrian civil war and ISIL – have flooded into Hungary alone already this year. The European Commission said Friday that over 210,000 people applied for asylum in the EU in the second quarter of 2015, up 85 percent over the same period in 2014.
     A third of the asylum-seekers are from Syria and Afghanistan, the commission said.
     The crush of refugees – and Hungary’s unwillingness to deal with them – has caused a domino effect at neighboring borders this week.
     Although the 1995 Schengen Agreement broke down borders across much of Europe, Germany earlier this week raised controls along its frontier with Austria – and Austria followed suit by closing its border with Hungary. Hungary meanwhile closed its borders as well and declared a state of emergency while it finishes a 109-mile razor wire fence at its frontier with Serbia.
     Tusk excoriated his colleagues for failing to secure the EU’s external borders, which he says has prompted member states’ unprecedented actions to – temporarily at least – close their own frontiers.
     “We as Europeans are currently not able to manage our common external borders, hence some states decided to protect themselves by closing their national ones,” Tusk wrote. “The protection of the European community is our first duty and obligation and we have failed on this front.
     “For too long our discussions have centered around shifting the responsibility onto others,” he continued. “There is a long list of issues where we could blame one another but it will not help us in finding a common solution. Today we must absolutely work out policies that we can implement in order to help each other.”
     Tusk acknowledged a grave difference of opinion across the EU on what the continent should do about the refugee crisis. But he said staying the course would solve nothing.
     “There are different experiences and perceptions within the EU and there are no easy solutions. Still it cannot be an excuse not to develop a comprehensive strategy or to build a sound migration policy that is effective and responsible while respecting our core values,” he wrote.
     “The current ‘migration policy’ is a sum of despair of the victims fleeing war and persecution, of their determination in searching for a better life, of the cynicism of the smugglers, and too often, of the refugees and migrants’ tragic fate. Therefore it is essential to establish a credible European migration policy.”
     Tusk said the most urgent issues involve giving help to frontline states, the Western Balkans and Turkey; budgetary assistance for the refugee commissioner; and diplomatic pressure to solve the Syrian crisis once and for all.
     He also called on lawmakers to give immediate funding to the World Food Programme, which has already “cut substantially food support to refugees.” The program currently feeds 11 million people in Syria and the surrounding region.
     The special session of the European Council is set for Sept. 23.

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