BRUSSELS – To share some of the burden of Europe's gravest migrant crisis since World War II, European Union ministers agreed Tuesday to resettle tens of thousands of the people who are arriving in other countries of the bloc. It was a headline-making decision, because a majority of countries acted in the face of stiff opposition from fellow EU members. But EU officials acknowledged much more must be done. Here's a look at what was agreed and what's expected to happen next:
WHAT WAS DECIDED: A total of 120,000 people arriving in Greece and Italy over the next two years and who are "in clear need of international protection" will be resettled elsewhere in the bloc. Under the plan, 50,400 people will be relocated from Greece, and 15,600 from Italy. The remaining 54,000 may come from those two countries, where many people fleeing the Middle East, Africa and Asia first enter EU territory. They could also come from another EU member state if it is deemed to be "confronted with an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries."
WHAT THE GOALS ARE: EU governments said they acted to help the migrants to remain true to the values of human rights and dignity that are at the EU's heart, and out of solidarity with frontline EU states whose government authorities and social services have been swamped by the migrant crisis. Officials from Germany, the migrants' No. 1 destination, said the resettlement program should reduce the pressure being placed on it. "If people are distributed in Europe, then they can't choose what country they go to," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said. "They have to stay in the country they were distributed to. We decided today that if they don't keep to that, they can be returned without delay to the land they were distributed to, and the countries are committing themselves to taking the people back."
WHAT'S NEXT: The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said it will organize the relocation of the migrants affected, along with governments of the bloc's member states. As an incentive and compensation for agreeing to receive migrants, a destination country will receive 6,000 euros ($6,680) per person from the EU. The plan adopted Tuesday did not impose mandatory quotas on individual EU nations for taking refugees, which had been a contentious component of prior proposals. The Commission issued a "distribution key" showing how it thinks the migrants should be divided, but experience from a similar agreement in May shows that its wishes are not always fulfilled. There has been a bargaining process over how to apportion the resettled people. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Rafal Trzaskowski said the EU had wanted Poland to accept 12,000 refugees, and Poland originally offered to take 2,000. The final figure agreed on was 4,500-5,000. De Maiziere said Germany, by itself, plans to take 26 percent of the migrants, or a little over 30,000. Britain and Denmark are not participating in the resettlement program.
THE REMAINING BIG ISSUES: The migrant crisis has shot to the top of the EU's agenda, and on Wednesday the bloc's heads of state and government will hold an extraordinary summit in Brussels to seek short-term fixes and long-term solutions. EU President Donald Tusk, the summit host, has already outlined what he thinks leaders should do, ranging from doing more to help EU countries where large numbers of migrants are arriving to accelerating diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Syria, where large numbers of the refugees are coming from.
This story has been corrected to say Trzaskowski is deputy foreign minister of Poland.