If certain European Union (EU) countries keep opposing any type of solidarity on the issue of taking in refugees and asylum seekers, the Schengen Zone and free movement of persons will be endangered, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned at a dinner with his European peers on Wednesday night. Migration was the main course at the dinner of heads of State and Government ahead of the informal summit in Salzburg. No progress was made on issues that have been deadlocked, sometimes for years, but the heads were able to exchange views.
The refusal of solidarity ultimately threatens the Schengen Zone, Michel said. The Visegrad Group of countries – Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia – do not wish to take in their share of the migrants pressing at Europe’s borders, thus arousing the dissatisfaction of the other Member States.
The idea of asking for a financial contribution from countries that do not wish to take in their share of migrants was mentioned during the dinner. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had suggested that those that do not wish to allow the migrants to come in – even though they should – should contribute to the solidarity in another way.
While he did not explicitly refer to a financial contribution, the suggestion aroused opposing reactions, mainly from another Luxembourger, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel. “We’re not in a market here,” he exclaimed. “We’re talking about people, not carpets or other merchandise.”
For his part, Charles Michel was particularly virulent towards Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini (from the extreme-right League) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “Their alliance is schizophrenic and hypocritical,” he said. “Salvini keeps calling for solidarity (from other Member States) but Orban is always the first to reject this solidarity,” he added. “They have clearly decided to instrumentalise the migration dossier and to not resolve it.”