makedonija, grčka, migranti, izbjeglice.jpg
Photograph: EPA/NAKE BATEV

EU member states made limited progress Thursday in providing places for Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey

The 28-member bloc has been working to halt a migration surge that saw more than 1 million people arrive last year. Most of them crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey to the Greek islands, in the hope of reaching wealthy northern European states such as Germany and Sweden.

At the core of the EU's approach is a controversial deal with Turkey under which new arrivals to Greece will be sent back. For each Syrian returned in this way, the bloc has agreed to take in one Syrian refugee living in Turkey, up to a total of 72,000.

The aim is to replace dangerous, uncontrolled and illegal entries into the EU with a managed scheme granting protection to Syrians fleeing the conflict in their nation.

But member states have been slow in coming forward with concrete pledges, said Dutch Migration Minister Klaas Dijkhoff, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"We all have to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey," Dijkhoff said. "Many member states have shown willingness to do so, but we are not there yet," he added, following a meeting Thursday of EU interior ministers in Luxembourg.

A draft country-by-country breakdown has been prepared, detailing the distribution of an overall 4,488 Syrians from Turkey during the first four months of the arrangement met with Turkey.

According to the document, seen by dpa, the highest number of Syrians - 218 a month - would go to non-EU member Norway, which is also taking part in the scheme. Next in line are France (148), Italy (118) and Germany (100), although member states can take in more.

But the draft document was not actively discussed or endorsed Thursday, according to Luxembourg Foreign and Immigration Minister Jean Asselborn and others party to the talks.

"We have to make far greater efforts than the numbers circulated [in the document]," Asselborn added.

The country-by-country contingents do not need to be approved, as they are based on refugee intake figures agreed by member states last year.

However, the distribution plan has faced resistance from Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, diplomatic sources said ahead of Thursday's meeting. The three countries would take in up to 84 Syrians monthly under the draft.

Besides the deal with Turkey, the European Commission has also put forward plans for an EU border and coastguard that would be able to intervene in member states if they are "unable or unwilling" to protect their frontiers.

The ministers agreed Thursday to start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as possible, while also preparing to implement the initiative, Dijkhoff said.

"The European border guard should take off as soon as possible, and it's our preference that it will be already this summer," he added.

Ahead of the talks, German Interior Minister Thomas De Maziere expressed hope that the process could be completed by the end of June, adding that swift action was "necessary and appropriate."

Border controls have usually been a jealously guarded national competence in the 28-country EU, but the migration crisis has put pressure on Europe's internal border-free Schengen system, prompting calls for a strengthening of the bloc's external borders.

Latest news

SpaceX plans to fly two passengers around moon, NASA involved

SpaceX is planning to fly two private citizens around the moon next year, the first manned trip to the Earth's only natural satellite in more than four decades, the private company said Monday.

Key congressman has 'no evidence' of Trump contacts with Russia

The chairman of the US House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee said he is not aware of any evidence of improper contacts between Russian officials and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Gambia's new President Barrow fires army chief

Gambia's new President Adama Barrow has sacked army chief Ousman Badjie, replacing him with a presidential military aide.

Star investor Buffett takes a bigger bite of Apple, doubling shares

Stock market guru Warren Buffett on Monday revealed that his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway doubled its share of iPhone producer Apple stocks last month.

Minister: Erdogan not welcome in Austria for referendum campaign

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should not come to Austria to campaign to Turkish citizens living there ahead of a constitutional reform referendum in his country, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said Monday.

Migrant group: Britain hits 'new low' by deporting grandmother

Britain has hit a "new low" by deporting a grandmother from north-eastern England to Singapore, a migrants' rights group said on Monday.

Turkish judge remands German reporter in custody

A Turkish judge remanded German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in custody Monday, according to newspaper Die Welt, sparking strong condemnation from the German government and rights organizations.

1.4 million people without water after deadly floods in Chile

More than 1.4 million people were without drinking water in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Monday following catastrophic flooding that left at least three people dead.

Serbia PM says no snap parliamentary election

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that an early parliamentary election would not be held simultaneously with a presidential vote, although the state leadership had announced such a possibility.  

Trump touts 'security budget' with 10-per-cent defence spending hike

US President Donald Trump says he will present a "public security and national security budget" that hikes military spending by 54 billion dollars or about 10 per cent.

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen fined for Roma comments

The founder of France's far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had a 5,000-euro (5,300-dollar) fine for inciting racial hatred and discrimination confirmed on appeal on Monday.

Croatia-Montenegro relations example for region, says minister

After meeting Croatian Ambassador Veselko Grubisic in Podgorica on Monday, Montenegrin Defence Minister Predrag Boskovic said that relations between Croatia and Montenegro were very good and could serve as an example to other countries in the region.

Over 31,000 South Sudanese flee fighting and hunger to Sudan

Fleeing escalating fighting and famine in South Sudan, over 31,000 people have arrived in neighbouring Sudan so far this year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Monday.

SDP urges gov't to pull statement making radical turn in human rights

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called on the government to take a position on the Croatian foreign policy's turn in human rights, which it said was initiated by Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier, and to withdraw a Foreign Ministry statement on that sent to Brussels.

Police says photoshopped photo of Milanka Opacic motivated by hate

An investigation has proved that a photograph showing Parliament Deputy Speaker Milanka Opacic wearing a shirt with four Cyrillic letters "S" (standing for "only unity saves the Serb", a popular motto and slogan in Serbia and among Serb nationalists) is a photomontage and the police suspect that publishing and distributing the said photo has been motivated by hate and intolerance.

Finance Ministry says didn't analyse HEP's readiness for IPO

The Ministry of Finance on Monday announced that it had not analysed the justification or the readiness of power provider Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) for an initial public offering with regard to a possible acquisition of Hungarian energy company MOL's stake in Croatia's INA.

Berlin confirms murder of German hostage in the Philippines

Berlin confirmed on Monday the murder of a German hostage by the militant Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines with Chancellor Angela Merkel condemning the killing as "barbaric" and "abominable".

Syrian refugees arrive in Italy with help from Christian groups

A group of 50 Syrian refugees, more than half of them children, landed in Italy early Monday, entering the country on humanitarian visas obtained with the help of a lay Catholic NGO, Protestant organizations and the Italian government.