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Thursday, May 26, 2022

The new unity of the EU – and an old dispute

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The number of people fleeing the war in Ukraine to the EU continues to rise. During a visit to Estonia on Monday, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson prepared the EU for the fact that the community is only at the beginning of a crisis that is already dwarfing the refugee crisis of 2015/ 16. “There will be many more millions to come,” the Swede said.

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As it is, more than three million people, many of them women with children, have fled from Ukraine to the EU. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than two million people have found refuge in Poland, 535,000 in Romania, 312,000 in Hungary and 250,000 in Slovakia. So far, 365,000 people from Ukraine have found refuge in Moldova, a small non-EU country.

In this emergency situation, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) called on Monday in Brussels for help for the countries directly neighboring Ukraine. The appeal was directed mainly at Western European countries such as Spain and France. “We don’t just need local corridors out of Ukraine, we need an airlift in solidarity,” she said. “Everyone has to welcome refugees.” Baerbock accepted a suggestion from migration researcher Gerald Knaus, who had warned all along not only of overburdening states bordering Ukraine, but also of extremely high numbers of refugees in nearby cities like Berlin and Vienna. .

Government Spokesperson Hebestreit: Challenge for the EU as a whole

Almost 220,000 refugees have been officially registered in Germany so far, but the actual number is significantly higher. According to government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit, accommodating and caring for those in need is a challenge for the EU as a whole.

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In principle, there is also a willingness in the western EU states to take in more people from Ukraine than before. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said all states must support refugees in the current emergency. However, when it comes to implementation, it very quickly ends with the specific question of how many refugees each EU country should accept. Poland and Hungary rejected precisely that quota concept during the 2015/16 refugee crisis.

According to EU diplomats, these same states want to avoid anything approaching the concept of refugee resettlement. The reason: if a resettlement system were introduced now, Poland and Hungary would also be bound by it if they accepted refugees from Africa arriving in southern European states in the future.

At least the EU seems to be managing to put the old dispute behind it in view of the emergency situation in Moldova. Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu stated that his country, together with Germany and France, supported the organization of a conference to coordinate aid to Moldova on April 5 in Berlin.

First flights towards the end of the week

Initially, the 13,000 refugees currently holding out in Moldova will be accommodated in EU countries such as Germany, France, Lithuania and Spain. According to Baerbock, the first flights to distribute these refugees should begin at the end of this week. As Romanian Foreign Minister Aurescu described, “green corridors” have now been created to relieve the Moldovan authorities, through which refugees can reach Romanian territory directly from the Ukraine-Moldova border.


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