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Poland Criticizes EU Refugee Quota Plan Ahead of Summit

  • VOA News

FILE - Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna speaks with the media prior to a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels.

FILE - Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna speaks with the media prior to a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels.

Poland's Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said Europe needs a united plan to address the ongoing refugee crisis, but not one that imposes quotas for individual countries stating how many people they should admit.

In an opinion piece published Monday by the newspaper Politico Europe, Schetyna said the first priority for the European Union is sealing its borders, and that the bloc should set up refugee reception centers to identify those who are refugees and those who are economic migrants.

"We cannot allow the refugee crisis to divide and antagonize Europe" he wrote. "That is why we view the challenge put before us not in terms of compulsory quotas, which are probably outdate and insufficient by now, but in terms of solidarity."

Schetyna said Poland is not opposed to taking in refugees, but that the proposal for EU nations to divide 120,000 people would not fully address the problem.

"Instead we should be jumping into action with a broad plan that tackles the causes of the exodus as well as the symptoms. And we need to strike the right balance between helping those in need and guaranteeing the security of our citizens," said Schetyna.

He told reporters Sunday that nations such as Sweden, Germany and Austria have experience taking in migrants, while others in the EU do not.

Schetyna is meeting Monday in Prague with his counterparts from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, as well as from current EU president Luxembourg. EU interior ministers will meet Tuesday, followed by a special EU summit Wednesday to discuss the continent's plans to address the crisis.

More than 470,000 people have arrived in Europe this year, nearly 40 percent of them from Syria, according to the International Organization for Migration. The influx has sent European nations scrambling to figure out how they should respond.

On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. would increase the number of refugee visas it issues from 70,000 a year now to 85,000 in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017.

Kerry, speaking in Berlin, called the decision by the Obama administration a "step in keeping with America's best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope."

He also said the government will explore ways to boost the refugee visa limit beyond the 100,000 ceiling in future years.

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