Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders: there is no simple way of resolving European refugee crisis

According to Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, there is no simple way of resolving the current European refugee crisis. ‘One thing is clear: we need a joint European solution, and countries need to refrain as much as possible from taking unilateral measures,’ he said on Wednesday night in Brussels, after a working dinner on the crisis with the heads of government of four countries on the Western Balkans route.

The dinner, held on the eve of the European summit on the refugee crisis, was hosted by European Council President Donald Tusk and attended by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Koenders represented the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the meeting. They spoke with member states Croatia and Slovenia and candidate countries Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about the current problems facing states situated on the Western Balkans route into Europe.

During the discussion, Koenders stressed that merely closing one’s borders would not resolve the migration problem. ‘Member states and non-member states alike have a clear responsibility to conduct robust border controls and screening,’ he said. ‘But the solution to the current issue goes beyond border controls alone. We also need to prevent the situation at the borders from getting out of hand and making things worse for refugees.’

The minister pointed out that reaching a broad consensus on a common EU approach is the most effective way to resolve the problem. That approach must include working with Turkey to implement the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan, providing more support to Greece and getting the situation on the Western Balkans route under control.

‘The affected countries themselves can and must do more,’ Mr Koenders added. ‘But for its part the EU can and must offer more support in dealing with the refugee crisis, including in the area of reception and registration.’ Koenders shared this same message last weekend in Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where he visited transit camps for migrants and refugees on both sides of the border.