PM Vucic: The three most important preconditions for resolving the refugee crisis
WASHINGTON — European and U.S. leaders should focus on a comprehensive solution to the migrant crisis plaguing the continent and not implement measures that increase the costs to their neighbors, the prime minister of Serbia said Thursday.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told USA TODAY he used his meetings with Secretary of State John Kerry and White House officials to advocate a comprehensive solution along three principles:
►The failure of recent European negotiations to enact a quota system for the absorption of migrants showed that “Europe cannot act on a unanimous decision,” Vucic said. Leaders need to get past the deadlock and make a decision, he said.
►U.S. leadership is needed to deal with the crisis at its origin in Syria and Turkey, Vucic said.
►Each European country needs to take its share of the burden, reaching into their own pockets and not only relying on international funding.
“We’re not part of the European Union but we’re ready to take our share of the burden,” Vucic said, at the end of a two-day visit to Washington. “If the European Union makes a decision and says you need to take a certain number of people, I would say ‘Yes.’”
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic reject mandatory E.U. quotas. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has argued that Hungarians do not want Muslim refugees. Orban blocked the passage of migrants through his country to other destinations in the European Union. He ordered the construction of a 13-foot fence, shut down highways and rail lines, and on Wednesday his border patrol fired tear gas and water cannons against migrants that rushed the border from the Serbian side.
Vucic said Serbia’s number one goal is to become part of the E.U. economic alliance, and that it seeks good relations with its northern neighbor. Hungary’s actions, however, compounded the cost of the crisis.
Serbia has registered, fed and provided temporary housing to more than 137,000 migrants, mostly Syrian refugees fleeing war and seeking a better life elsewhere in Europe. The Serbian-Hungarian was the scene, in the past two weeks, of chaotic scenes of people trying to push past barriers erected by Hungary, including a border fence, police lines and the closing of highways and rail lines linking Serbia with other parts of the European Union.
The closing of borders, highways and rail lines in neighboring Hungary “closed our highway to northern and western Europe,” Vucic said. “It’s something I never thought would happen (and) I don’t know how much this will cost us.”