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Dec 13, 2017 - Zoltán Kovács

Yes, Mr. Commissioner, quotas are ‘divisive’ and ‘ineffective’

In preparation for Thursday’s EU summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk has circulated a note to EU leaders saying that “the issue of mandatory quotas has proven to be highly divisive and the approach has turned out to be ineffective.”

What’s more, he added in a nod to the authority of national governments, “only member states are able to tackle the migration crisis effectively. The EU’s role is to offer its full support in all possible ways.” He went on to say that an effective migration policy would require protection of the external border, efforts to fight human-trafficking, partnerships with neighboring countries to reduce migration pressure and so on.

The president of the European Council – the most important decision-making body in the EU as the one bearing the most real legitimacy – says quotas are “divisive” and “ineffective”.

Seems like I’ve heard those sentiments somewhere before. Sounds a lot like what Prime Minister Orbán has been saying for a couple of years now.

But European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, one of the long-standing proponents of quotas, was not pleased. He called Tusk’s line “unacceptable” and “anti-European,” adding that it “ignores all the work we have done during the past years.”

His response was telling. He said that Tusk’s paper undermined “one of the main pillars of the European project, the principle of solidarity” and argued that Europe’s “success in managing migration cannot be attributed to individual member states.”

It may come as news to Commissioner Avramopoulos, but that’s not the way the EU works. An effective EU depends on consensus. The power and authority of the Commission is given by the member states to serve the best interests of Europe as expressed by the member state governments.

Secondly, the Commission has been working on a compulsory quota system for some time, while trying to sell the line that that compulsory quota decision back in 2015 was just a one-time measure and that there is no permanent quota. Several member states oppose the quota system and for good reason.

Thirdly, yes, in fact, successful responses to the migration crisis can be attributed to individual member states. Hungary, for example, and others who have taken seriously the treaty responsibility to secure the external border of the EU have responded successfully. We did so without any funding or support from Brussels – our requests were denied – and the border fence has reduced illegal crossings to near zero.