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News 08 Sep 15

Romania States its Price For Taking in Refugees

Romania has only limited capacities to shelter refugees and wants the right to join the Schengen zone if the EU imposes a refugee quota on the country, Prime Minister Victor Ponta said.

Marian Chiriac
Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Romania’s Supreme Defence Council is to decide next week how many refugees the country can accomodate, but the number cannot exceed the current capacity of some 1,500 places in six reception centres, Prime Minister Ponta announced on Monday.

“Romania is a European country and must show solidarity with what is happening in Europe. But we can’t take in more refugees than we can shelter. Besides, of the 1,500 places, 200 are already occupied,” Ponta said.

He added that if Romania was asked to take in more, it should have the same rights as the other EU countries, including the right to join to the EU’s passport-free Schengen Zone.

“Now we can see the injustice done to Romania with the Schengen accession, as the very same countries that are now asking for our solidarity are the same countries that have postponed our Schengen accession,” he said.

On his part, President Klaus Iohannis also said late on Monday that Romania can take in a maximum 1,785 migrants in a voluntary scheme to help ease pressures on the European Union from an influx of refugees fleeing Middle East wars but opposes any compulsory EU quotas,

Several key EU member states, including Germany, The Netherlands and France have opposed Romania’s accession to the Schengen Zone, saying that Romania has not made sufficient progress in fighting corruption and organised crime.

The situation improved in recent months, however, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying in March that Berlin is shifting in favour of Romania's admission to the Schengen area.

Unanimous agreement is needed in the EU before a new country can join the Schengen area, however.

Analysts said that while Romania could not set such conditions, the Bucharest authorities have the right to bring the issue to the EU’s notice.

“Bucharest is not in a position to condition receiving a refugee quota from Brussels with Schengen accession, but leaders should say loudly that we want equal treatment,” journalist Adrian Mihaianu said.

“Romania can’t be told to take in a certain number of refugees unless it becomes a member of the Schengen area,” he added.

The European Commission on Wednesday is to unveil a new set of national quotas under which EU states are to take in some 160,000 people relocated from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

A Reuters report said that Romania will be asked to accept 6,351 of them, while Germany will take in more than 40,000 and France 30,000.

Britain has recently agreed to take in several thousand Syrian refugees although no exact number has been set.

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