BRUSSELS: EU interior ministers on Tuesday approved by a “large majority” a plan to relocate 120,000 refugees around the bloc but only after overriding fierce opposition from central and eastern European countries.
“Decision on relocation for 120,000 persons adopted today, by large majority of member states,” the EU´s Luxembourg presidency said in a tweet after an emergency meeting in Brussels.
“We, Slovaks, Romanians, Hungarians against, and Finland abstained. The resolution was accepted,” Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said in a separate tweet.
The four countries, led by Hungary, are bitterly opposed to the European Commission plan, insisting Brussels has no right to make them take in thousands of the people seeking refuge in Europe.
To do so, amounts to a violation of national sovereignty, they argue.
An EU diplomat told AFP the decision was taken by so-called qualified majority vote.
It means that the Commission failed to get unanimous backing from all 28 member states for its relocation plan ahead of an emergency EU leaders summit Wednesday on the worst migrant crisis since World War II.
The squabble was a repeat of the interior ministers meeting last week but this time, pressed by France and Germany, the plan was put to a vote.
The outcome is binding on all 28 member states although implementation may prove problematic given the depth of opposition and the issue will very likely feature again at Wednesday´s summit.
Last week´s meeting did endorse plans to relocate a separate 40,000 refugees which the Commission unveiled in May as the crisis deepened.
The diplomat said that of the 120,000, some 66,000 migrants who have been granted asylum will be relocated from Greece and Italy which along with Hungary have borne the brunt of the flood of migrants fleeing war and turmoil across the Middle East and Africa.
That leaves 54,000 places — which Hungary had rejected in its opposition to the Commission plan — to be redistributed.
EU sources said earlier Tuesday Greece and Italy may get most of these places, while others now finding themselves in the frontline such as Austria and Croatia could also get additional help.