The European Commission’s proposal last week of a system of quotas to distribute migrants among the European Union’s 28 member states is a welcome step toward a permanent, more equitable process for dealing with the waves of migrants seeking safety and opportunity in Europe
E.U. regulations now stipulate that it is the responsibility of the country where migrants arrive to accommodate them and process asylum requests. That has left Italy
overwhelmed by the recent tide of migration from Africa.
The commission‘s proposal would provide emergency relief to Italy and Greece by relocating 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers (economic migrants would be repatriated) who arrived there after April 15 to other European nations over the next two years, while working on a permanent plan. That is very little to ask of the countries that are not doing their share. Yet, several countries that are run by right-wing governments, or are facing rising anti-immigrant sentiment, are having none of even this modest proposal.
, Latvia and the Czech Republic have all protested any use of mandated quotas. Voluntary quotas, as these countries know, are meaningless. Britain and Ireland
have the option under E.U. treaties of “opting in” — hardly likely in the case of Britain, given the anti-immigration stance of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government and Mr. Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.
The new proposal has strong backing from Germany
, which took in 203,000 asylum seekers in 2014, the most of any European country. Germany’s support is appropriate, given its relatively robust economy. But even Germany has expressed concern, together with France
, that the plan should take into consideration how many asylum seekers countries have already taken in. This is a reasonable demand. Five of the E.U.’s 28 members — Germany, France, Sweden
, Italy and Hungary — now account for three-fourths of all asylum applications.
When the European Council meets on June 25 and 26, it must be sure it has rounded up enough support to approve a credible version of the new proposal that establishes binding rules for fairly sharing the influx of refugees. It will be a challenge for the European Commission to get members to deal collectively with the migration crisis. But countries that refuse to accept the idea of sharing the burden that has been falling so heavily on Italy and Greece are only showing their contempt for the very idea of the union of Europe.