EU leaders decide against refugee quotas, Estonia could accept 84-156 people says minister ({{commentsTotal}})

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Following ten hours of discussion, EU government heads agreed not to follow through with the European Commission's migrant quota plan to solve the Mediterranean refugee crisis. It was decided that a voluntary agreement between the countries is preferable to a forced obligation.

Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said the result reflects Estonia's views on solving the migration crisis.

"Looking at the big picture, this is a small but fundamental decision," he said.

"To sum up today's discussion, one can say that no EU member state denies the migration crises that comes with wars. It is our moral duty to help those in need and Estonia is strong enough to solve the war refugee crisis in cooperation with other countries," Rõivas said, adding that it is also important to arrive at the root cause of the problems and find a sustainable solution.

Prior to the European Council meeting, PM Rõivas met with the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz to present the views of Estonia on solving the migration crisis. Rõivas aimed to have the formula proposed by the European Commission amended so that it would be more proportional and affordable for small countries like Estonia.

EU leaders agreed that a new proposal will be put forward in July on how to resettle the 60,000 refugees, 40,000 of whom are currently in Italy and Greece, and 20,000 in refugee camps outside of the EU. This will be based on all member states agreeing to resettle asylum seekers on voluntary basis.

Estonia will now get a stronger say in how many refugees it will receive. The National Audit Office of Estonia is currently preparing an audit to analyze the capacity of the state in various areas, including education, social protection, integration, healthcare and so on, to accept refugees.

Negotiations will continue on July 9 in Luxembourg, where Estonia will be represented by Hanno Pevkur.

Pevkur: Estonia could resettle 84 to 154 refugees in two years

Minister of Internal Affairs Hanno Pevkur said Estonia is capable of accepting between 84 and 156 refugees. The government lacks a mandate from the Paliament to promise the European Commission higher numbers than that.

"We can take into account our GDP, population size, or the combination of both, but this is the mandate I have and will take to the negotations table," Pevkur said.

Estonian GDP accounts for just 0.14 percent of the total EU GDP and its population for 0.26 percent of EU population. Application of these percentages to the 60,000 refugees to be resettled gives a rate between 84 and 156.

Pevkur was also critical of the municipalities that have said they refuse to take on any refugees. 

"Municipalities too enjoy financial support from the EU. It can't be that we accept support but refuse to contribute. The deal is for better or for worse," he said.

Editor: M. Oll

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