The interior ministers of the EU voted yesterday to approve distributing and relocating 120,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU countries. Finland stood out from the bunch by being the only country to abstain from voting.
The voting was highly unusual procedure within the interior minister meetings where a suitable compromise for all is a standard procedure. However, this time the dissension between the member countries was too big to achieve consensus. Four Eastern European countries: Romania, Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary, all voted against, but the relocation plan was passed due to a clear majority approval.
Hungary too was supposed to be one of the countries where some 50 000 refugees would be redistributed to other countries, but the country refused to be part of the final plan.
Finland’s reason for abstaining
Finland’s Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo explained the peculiar choice to abstain from voting: ‘We have clear guidelines in the government programme that these relocations need to be on a voluntary basis’. Orpo still highlighted that Finland will participate in the relocation plan with the quota of 2400 refugees that have already been assigned for the country earlier.
While Orpo was at the EU meeting, Finland’s Foreign Minister Timo Soini made the headlines at the homeland by saying that Sweden is enabling criminal activity, such as human trafficking, by not registering the refugees that enter the country. Swedish newspapers reported this as an attack towards Sweden, although Swedish Ambassador Anders Liden saw Soini’s critic more as a general criticism towards the open boarders policy in the EU.
Plan receives criticism from the UN
The relocation plan has received some criticism for not being insufficient enough. Spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency described it as an “important first step, but added that “a relocation programme alone, at this stage in the crisis, will not be enough to stabilise the situation.
Tonight the leaders of the EU-countries meet at a summit to discuss the refugee crisis. The call for this meeting came from Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel last week. The discussion is set to address the boarder control issues as well as how to better support the refugees’ countries of origin.