Battles over who should help the refugees played out on Tuesday, with Germany halting train traffic from Salzburg in neighboring Austria, the European Commission pleading for a “comprehensive solution”, and EU-member Croatia shutting a highway crossing on the border with non-member Serbia, its enemy in the Yugoslavian civil war 20 years ago.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, newly sworn in after his re-election, said unless responsibility was shared “there is no point in talking about a united Europe”.
“The discussions will certainly be long, emotional and hard “, Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told a local broadcaster before traveling to the Belgian capital.
However, many believe that it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offer to take in refugees and that Germany’s doors were open, that caused tens of thousands to flee from Syria and Afghanistan, making the often unsafe journey across Europe.
Thousands of migrants were trapped in southeast Europe after countries began putting up barriers that blocked their passage to Western Europe.
“That is a European approach befitting of European asylum standards”, he added.
Mr Milanović says he wants to create a corridor for refugees to pass safely through his country, but Mrs Grabar-Kitarović appears to be taking a harder line.
But he also stressed that “it’s so important to keep people close to their homes” rather than letting them embark on perilous treks across the Mediterranean and Europe.
It comes as European Leaders prepare for an emergency summit in Brussels to try to find agreement on a response to the crisis.
Refugees and migrants arriving in Greece and Italy have been streaming north across the continent to reach more affluent nations like Germany, triggering disputes between governments in central and eastern Europe as they alternately try to block the flow or to shunt the burden on to their neighbors.
Since it closed its borders to Serbia last week, neighboring Croatia has seen a huge influx of around 30,000 refugees, many of them seeking to pass through to Slovenia and from there to Austria and Germany. (Britain has already adopted such a policy.) They would then be distributed across the European Union according to each member state’s size and economic strength. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary are the leading opponents, though without enough votes to block the proposal.
The EU’s executive has for instance been looking at whether it can reallocate up to 1 billion euros in funding for Turkey to help it cope with the 2 million Syrian refugees it has taken in.
Hungary has granted its army extra powers to deal with migrants, allowing them to use rubber bullets, tear gas and guns which can deploy netting.
Germany’s Gabriel warned that the country could be overwhelmed by the 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers it expects to receive this year.