Refugee crisis: EU ministers agree quotas – as UN says even its best offer is not enough

EU ministers have forced through a resolution setting out where refugees will be rehomed across the bloc, amid UN criticism that even its best offer is not enough.

Europe has committed in principle to redistributing 120,000 people across the 28-nation bloc – but fallen down when it comes to working out the practical details.

Interior ministers from each country met in Brussels to try and reach a consensus on a quota system.

But those efforts appear to have failed, leaving EU member states to force through a majority vote against the wishes of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, while Finland abstained.

As ministers prepared to meet on Tuesday ahead of a wider summit of their respective leaders on Wednesday, the UN’s refugee agency said the EU needed to go much further, and faster.

The UNHCR said even if the 120,000 resettlement programme was be agreed, this was the equivalent of just 20 days’ worth of arrivals at the current rate.

“A relocation programme alone, at this stage in the crisis, will not be enough to stabilise the situation,” UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said, calling on the EU to set up reception facilities for tens of thousands of refugees at any one time.

To make matters worse, the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said just hours before Tuesday’s talks that his country would reject out of hand any attempts to enforce EU-wide refugee quotas.

He said any attempt to impose such a scheme could end in “big ridicule” for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, and for governments that supported the idea.

EU leaders had hoped the ministers could sort out the thorny quota issue so that their summit on Wednesday could focus more broadly on issues affecting the Middle East and Turkey at source.

And after weeks of talks, senior officials voiced growing exasperation. “This is the worst I’ve ever known things in more than 20 years dealing with European affairs,” one senior diplomat said.