European leaders are meeting in Brussels Wednesday to finalize an agreement on refugee quotas that has been hotly contested by several nations. The meeting comes one day after European Union (EU) nations reached an agreement on settling the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have flooded the continent in the past few months.
On Tuesday, EU members reached an agreement to impose refugee quotas that would collectively manage the relocation of 120,000 asylum seekers between member nations. However, the plan has yet to meet the final approval of the 28-member bloc, and Wednesday's emergency summit will see countries flesh out the plan, which countries like Germany and France have championed as a European duty while four other nations staunchly oppose it.
EU authorities have warned of financial penalties against countries that fail to accept their quotas. But the Czech government said that even though it was outvoted in passing the measure, the country did not expect the plan to work.
"Only the future will show what a mistake this was," President Milos Zeman reportedly said Tuesday.
The measure was approved by a rare majority vote, rather than by unanimous approval. Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic opposed the plan, and Finland abstained from voting.
During Wednesday’s meeting, EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans urged all nations to accept the quota. “In the European Union, a treaty based organisation, a decision is a decision regardless of the way you voted. The decision is legal, it’s valid and it binds all members,” he said, according to the Guardian.
The Wednesday summit is also expected to see discussions on how to tighten the EU’s borders, and providing aid to Syria's neighboring nations that are hosting millions of Syrian refugees. Britain has agreed to provide 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) in aid to Syria’s neighbors, more than any other European country, but it has been criticized for its decision to opt out of the quota and lagging behind on its commitments to take refugees.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande held talks and declared that the only feasible solution to the refugee crisis is to find a way to end hostilities in Syria. They also called for stronger measures to distinguish refugees fleeing war and persecution from economic migrants leaving safe countries in hope of a better life.
Cameron and Hollande “agreed that EU countries should do more to return migrants who don't have a genuine claim for asylum to their countries of origin," the Independent reported.