EU’s Tusk warns of east-west divide on migrant crisis

EU President Donald Tusk

EU President Donald Tusk

EU President Donald Tusk warned Thursday that divisions between western member states and their newer eastern partners were complicating efforts to solve the deepening migrant crisis.

“There is a divide … between the east and the west of the EU. Some member states are thinking about containing the wave of migration, symbolised by the Hungarian (border) fence,” Tusk said.

“Others want solidarity in advocating a so-called obligatory basis for quotas. The key challenge is to find for them all a common, yet ambitious, denominator,” he said before talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as the crisis deepens.

Orban has taken a hard line on the flood of migrants, refusing to accept any quota plan for accepting asylum seekers and building a razor wire fence along the border with Serbia in a bid to halt the influx.

The fence has done little to stem the flow and Hungary remains a key arrival point for tens of thousands of migrants entering the European Union, with some 50,000 arriving in the country in August alone.

Tusk told a conference of EU ambassadors that the migrant crisis was one of the major challenges facing the 28-nation bloc.

“I am working with leaders to build a new consensus among governments on the EU response,” he said.

“The first goal to ensure people in need of international protection receive it. Second, we must gain more control of mass population flows.”

Tusk said this would require much greater cooperation among member states and third countries, aiming to help tackle the problem at source.

Italy, Greece and now Hungary and the Balkan states have borne the brunt of the migrant influx which shows no sign of slowing as war and turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa drive millions of people from their homes.

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