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The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) holds extraordinary session on refugee/immigrants crisis :Will mandatory quotas be dropped?

The Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) held an extraordinary session on Monday in order to find solutions against the backdrop of the worsening refugee/immigrants crisis.
The talks centred on the expulsion procedures in case of rejected asylum requests, around cooperation with non-EU countries and immigrant smuggling prevention measures.
Although a solution for the refugee crisis and for the discussion on immigrant quotas was expected, a final decision will be taken in October, according to the joint statement of the JHA Council obtained by ‘The Guardian.’ The document concerned talks about a “commitment” on distributing the 160,000 refugees among member states. Nevertheless, the document does not mention the mandatory character of the quotas proposed by Brussels.
Moreover, the document shows, a decision will not be taken until the new summit on October 8.
The draft shows that the flexibility that member states may need in implementing this decision will be taken into consideration. In what concerns medium-term actions, the document shows that the EU should finance the construction of refugee camps outside the European continent. Thus, asylum seekers that are rejected should be sent to these camps located outside their countries of origin.

On September 9, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented in the European Parliament a second refugee distribution mechanism based on mandatory quotas, which concerns 160,000 refugees to be distributed on the basis of certain criteria. The EC President called on the EU’s Interior Ministers to “reach an agreement” at the JHA Council session on September 14 on the distribution of the 160,000 refugees.
A decision on the EC’s proposal will however be taken at the JHA Council on October 8 and the European Council on October 15-16. A special summit on migration will take place on November 11-12, at Valetta, the consilium.europa.eu website informs.
While the EU, through the Commission and Parliament, supports the distribution of refugees on the basis of mandatory quotas, opinions differ among member states. Romania has maintained its initial point of view which rejects mandatory quotas. Thus, on September 10, President Klaus Iohannis expressed his dissatisfaction with the EC proposal concerning the 160,000 refugees, pointing out that the Romanian Interior Minister’s mandate at the JHA Council on September 14 is “not to declare Romania’s adhesion to mandatory immigrant quotas.” On September 7, prior to the EC’s new distribution plan, the Romanian President expressed himself in favour of voluntary refugee quotas and announced that Romania can take in a total number of 1,785 refugees.
At the summit of EU Interior Ministers, coordinated by Jean Asselborn, the Immigration and Asylum Minister of Luxembourg, country that holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, Romania was represented by Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea. Prior to the summit, the Deputy Prime Minister stated that Romania respects its initial commitment to take in 1,785 refugees.
“I have a very clear mandate from President Klaus Iohannis, from Premier Victor Ponta, from the Government, a mandate I will present with modesty but also with dignity. Romania respects its initial commitment to take in 1,785 immigrants. This is the capacity of the Romanian state at this moment. And, of course, to vote against mandatory quotas,” Gabriel Oprea stated.


PM Ponta: Today we could take care of 1,700 refugees

Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Monday stated at a press conference in the south-western town of Targu Jiu, in reference to the refugee crisis, that inter-institutional communication exists between the Presidency, the Government and other state institutions; he mentioned that Romania’s current logistical capacity allows the receiving of no more than 1,700 immigrants.
“There was and there is inter-institutional communication among the Presidency, the Government, the other state bodies regarding our current capacity, which is why I’ve presented it, not because we want to oppose or argue with the European Commission, but because this is the number we could take care of today – 1,700 refugees. I don’t believe that a decision will be taken today at the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council; I think a decision will be taken at the Council of Europe meeting, the one that will be attended by President Iohannis. After the Council, we’ll see what’s decided and we’ll prepare for the good and for the worse. What I said and keep on saying is that I’m against the xenophobic discourses (…) the idea of closing borders, that all those who come are terrorists, this is Middle Ages nonsense and I am totally opposed to this approach. Should we have the possibility to receive more, we’ll do that, the problem is our logistical capacity to treat those people like persons, not the way they are treated by our Hungarian neighbours, with batons and serial numbering. This is something I won’t agree with,” said the Premier.
Ponta added he has no signals that the refugees are changing their route via Romania, bearing in mind that Hungary has announced the closing of its borders.


Former President Basescu: Romania should reject refugee quota, as it is not in Schengen Area

Romania should reject the idea of a refugee quota because it is not a member state of the Schengen Area, former President Traian Basescu said on Monday, adding that if he were still in office he would have asked Parliament to debate and decide on this matter.
“Romania should reject the idea of [refugee] quota, either voluntary or mandatory, for a simple reason: Romania is not a member state of the Schengen Area. The Schengen system has collapsed in the countries that are Schengen members, not in Romania. (…) The Schengen Area member states should cover for their mistake of having been unable to support the borders of the free movement area, and Romania could contribute to helping these countries. We could deploy ships in the Mediterranean Sea; we could, for instance, undertake to not allow any refugee-carrying boat to dock on the Kos Island ,” Basescu said at the headquarters of the People’s Movement Party (PMP).
In his opinion, Romania made a big mistake at the European Council summit meeting back in June, when it accepted the refugee quota.
“As far as we are concerned, a big mistake was made at the Council’s summit in June, when Romania approved a refugee quota and was given a share of the 40,000 refugees estimated to exist as of May. Now, it finds itself in a bind, because by accepting the quota in June, as assessed for the refugees registered as of May, a larger quota was extended to us because these unfortunate refugees did not stop in May, and they kept coming precisely when the European leaders were on holiday,” said Basescu.
He added that if he were still in office he would have called on Parliament to hold a debate and take a decision.
“Had I made the June mistake [at the European Council summit], I would have convened the institutions of the Romanian state – the democratic ones – and I would have mandated the [interior] minister to show disapproval of the quotas today [at the Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting], with the request for the disapproval to be recorded in the minutes of the Council meeting; I would have also rushed to Parliament to lay out the matter and would have asked Parliament for a debate and decision. (…) Nobody has been defeated in the Council in a decade when showing up with a decision adopted by their national parliament,” said Basescu.


Calin Popescu Tariceanu wants debate in Parliament

Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu states that Romania has to show solidarity with EU’s efforts to resolve the refugee crisis. He added that a Parliamentary debate would have been timely in order for the mandate taken to the JHA summit on Monday to have Parliament’s support.
At the same time, Tariceanu claimed that usually setting a very rigid mandate does not help in negotiations. “Ways have always been found at the EU because they are people that have both the political experience and the wisdom necessary to find compromise solutions and I believe Romania has to show solidarity within the EU. I believe that, generally speaking, setting a very rigid mandate does not help in negotiations. (…) When you go to negotiations, when you also want to have a possibility of leaving these negotiations in an honourable manner, [the solution] is not of going with let us say a formula not open to discussion. I believe Romania has to at least prove that it is willing to make an effort that has to be based on our existing capacities. Apart from that, I believe it is mainly the responsibility of the Government, of the Presidency,” Tariceanu stated.
The Senate Speaker pointed out that in all democratic European Union countries there is the custom of debating in Parliament matters of national importance. “In all democratic countries in Euroe, when such matters are raised at national level, a debate in Parliament is not ruled out, but such a debate is often useful on such an issue, in order for it to give support to the proposal with which Romania enters the talks at the European Commission. Apart from the parliamentary commissions, when I talk about a debate I always refer to a debate within the plenum. (…) The moment Parliament is notified of course we will present our point of view,” he stated.
According to Tariceanu, the idea of mandatory quotas imposed on Romania can give the sensation that it “dents the country’s sovereignty” to some extent.


European Commission President calls Klaus Iohannis to persuade him to accept more refugees

In a series of Tweets, Jean-Claude Juncker resumed his calls on Central and Eastern European leaders that oppose his measures to redistribute refugees in line with mandatory quotas for each country. “I have just talked with Klaus Iohannis, the President of Romania, in order for him to prepare for the extraordinary reunion of the Justice and Home Affairs Council tomorrow,” the President of the European Commission wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Similar postings referred to the Premiers of Hungary, Latvia, Czech Republic and Slovakia, who had stated repeatedly that they oppose the mandatory refugee distribution quotas, preferring voluntary quotas instead.
According to Agerpres, which quotes MTI, Jean-Claude Juncker tackled the issue in phone conversations with the Central and Eastern European leaders he referred to in his messages on Twitter. Thus, Jean-Claude Juncker talked by phone with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Slovakian PM Robert Fico, Latvian PM Laimdota Straujuma, Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka and Polish PM Ewa Kopacz. The announcement was made by Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s chief of cabinet.
“The purpose (of the phone conversation): solidarity for 160,000 refugees,” Selmayr wrote on his Twitter account. “Free movement (Schengen) will be in jeopardy unless EU member states work rapidly and jointly to manage the refugee crisis,” Selmayr added.
In an official response quoted by Mediafax, the Presidential Administration states that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had a phone conversation on Sunday, the Romanian Head of State expressing his solidarity in the refugee crisis and pointing out that Romania is taking part in European programmes in support of refugees, such as the Frontex programme. On the other hand, Iohannis reiterated his position according to which Romania opposes mandatory quotas, the aforementioned sources pointed out.


Iohannis: Romania is not a xenophobic, autistic or separatist country

Klaus Iohannis explained on Monday, at a press conference, Romania’s refusal to accept the refugee quota proposed by the European Commission, stating that our country’s offer to take in refugees is very generous.
“Gradually, the issue of mandatory quotas will disappear because I don’t find it normal for an EU country to be forced to do something it cannot do. I would find the decision to reopen the East-West divide fundamentally erroneous. There are other ways in which the countries that refuse mandatory quotas can show their solidarity. We expressed our opinion every time starting off from solidarity; Romania is sympathetic with the other members of the EU to an extent that will be revealed gradually on the immigrant issue too. We have made a very generous offer for the relocation of the 40,000 immigrants.
Romania is not a xenophobic, autistic or separatist country. We want to take part in solving this issue. How we will do it remains to be established, there have to be talks, a Government plan in order to come up with proposals,” Klaus Iohannis stated.
At the same time, commenting on the statements made by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, the President said that “he was a bit nervous when he made those statements.” “Romania is not a xenophobic, autistic or separatist country,” the President stated against the backdrop in which Romania has refused to accept the refugee quota imposed by the European Commission.

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