News World $1.6 billion pledged for refugees

$1.6 billion pledged for refugees

Migrants wait at a railway station, near the Serbia and Croatia border.
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EU leaders have pledged at least 1 billion euros ($1.6 billion) for Syrian asylum seekers in the Middle East and agreed to co-operate to deal with the flood of people into Europe at a summit described as less tense than feared after weeks of feuding.

The summit chairman, European Council president Donald Tusk, said the meeting, which ended early on Thursday after seven hours of talks in Brussels, was “really excellent, for sure much better than we expected”.

He heard “very substantial and energetic” exchanges between the Austrian and Hungarian leaders, whose common border was among those disrupted by chaotic crowds of asylum seekers this summer, but not the mutual recrimination that has threatened to tear apart the bloc’s cherished passport-free Schengen zone.

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“Today’s meeting and this atmosphere are a very positive sign,” said Mr Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland.

“It’s quite a symbolic moment for me as it’s clear we have stopped this risky blame game.”

German chancellor Angela Merkel, criticised by some eastern neighbours for what they saw as actions that have fuelled the influx of people trying to reach Germany, said the outcome was satisfactory.

“We know that the problem is not solved with the decision taken. But we have taken one of many necessary steps. I got the feeling that we want to tackle this task together,” she said.

Held at short notice after governments fell out badly over a scheme to share out responsibilities for asylum seekers around the EU, the summit carried political rather than legal weight.

A joint statement read: “We can only manage this challenge by working together in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility.”

The EU said it would offer at least 1 billion euros more to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, its World Food Program and other agencies and increase funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and other countries — part of a broad push to ease factors driving Syrians to risk sailing to Europe.

The next regular summit will be held in mid-October.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said a package of EU-run relocations and deportations and EU-funded frontier forces meant Rome’s partners had finally accepted demands it has been making for years to spread the load of migrant arrivals by sea.

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