— European Union home affairs ministers will seek to reconcile the bloc’s conflicting approaches to the huge number of migrants crossing their southern and eastern borders at an emergency session to be held here on Monday afternoon.
The ministers are gathering after Germany
reversed course over the weekend and imposed temporary border restrictions, cutting off rail service from Austria
and instituting spot checks on cars.
A solution looked elusive on Monday, as other nations, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe
, continued to balk at plans backed by Berlin
and the European Union authorities to accept fixed quotas of migrants in response to Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades.
The decision by Germany, which appeared to be a signal to other nations in the 28-member bloc that it could soon reach its limits in dealing with the crisis unless they show a greater willingness to cooperate, will add a new level of urgency to the meeting.
The focus of the talks, which are scheduled to start at 3 p.m., is on plans to relieve the burden on three front-line states — Greece
— by relocating 160,000 migrants to European Union countries further north and west.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive agency, has called for the system to be compulsory.
Europe, Mr. Juncker said in his State of the Union address last week, had a moral duty and an economic interest to give migrants new homes.
Mr. Juncker’s plan includes relocating 40,000 migrants who have arrived in Greece and Italy, and who are covered by a plan he proposed earlier this year, and a second plan to take in a further 120,000 migrants who have arrived in those two countries as well as in Hungary.
Those proposals are opposed by East and Central European countries like Slovakia and the Czech Republic, which have rejected any effort by Brussels to require that they accept asylum seekers.
Although countries like Germany want to do as much as possible to accommodate migrants who have fled war and persecution and reached Europe, others like Hungary say that quotas only serve to encourage ever larger numbers of people to pay people-smugglers and to risk their lives on treacherous journeys.
Countries that oppose the quotas have also argued that they have no tradition of offering refuge to people of different cultures; that their economies cannot sustain the influx; and that most of the migrants want to live in richer and more welcoming places, notably Germany and Sweden
There is also disagreement among European Union governments about which non-European countries should be included on a list of so-called safe countries — nations like Albania
, Serbia and Turkey
that are judged to be free of persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, indiscriminate violence and armed conflict.
Migrants from safe countries would be assessed more quickly, and those that do not qualify for asylum would then be returned to their home countries.
The scale of the influx means that the crisis is one of the most serious the European Union has ever faced, and that negotiating a common solution is likely to take months, if not years, to resolve.
The “proposals on the table for Monday’s so-called emergency meeting fall dangerously short of addressing gaps and ensuring protection and dignity for those in need,” Iverna McGowan, the acting director of the European Institutions Office for Amnesty International, warned on Monday.
About 2,800 people have died this year while trying to reach Europe, according to Amnesty International, which noted that some migrants had also been pushed back from the European Union’s external borders.
Even so, European Union diplomats have sought to temper expectations of a major breakthrough on Monday. One senior diplomat, who briefed reporters on Friday on the condition of anonymity ahead of the ministers’ meeting, said there was likely to be a final agreement on a first step only: the plan to relocate 40,000 migrants from Greece and Italy.
That system, which could begin on Tuesday, would be voluntary for European Union member states. Most of those qualifying for relocation are expected to be Syrians and Eritreans.
The plan to relocate a further 120,000 migrants could win a political endorsement from a majority of ministers on Monday. But a final decision on that plan, and a deal on a permanent system to redistribute migrants during future crises, could still require a meeting of European Union leaders later in the month, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, which represents national leaders and organizes summit meetings, indicated on Friday.
Home affairs ministers need to reach “a solution based on consensus and genuine solidarity” on Monday, Mr. Tusk said from Cyprus
. “Without such a decision, I will have to call an emergency meeting of the European Council still in September,” he said.