European Union and Balkan leaders faced a make-or-break summit on Sunday on the deepening refugee crisis after three frontline states threatened to close their borders if their EU peers stopped accepting migrants.
The mini summit, called by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, groups the heads of 10 EU nations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, plus the leaders of Albania, Serbia and Macedonia.
Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia on Saturday warned they would not accept being turned into a “buffer zone” for the tens of thousands of arrivals streaming into Europe.
“If Germany and Austria and other countries close their borders ... we will be ready to also close our borders at that very same moment,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said.
Over past months, non-EU member Serbia has been swamped by migrants on their way from Greece and Macedonia to northern Europe. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who is due in Brussels, said: “We will have difficult talks today, not pleasant for anybody, but I hope for a comprehensive solution.”
EU member Hungary has already built a razor-wire fence on its border with Serbia, which forced the migrants to seek a route through Croatia, causing a massive build-up. Budapest then began putting up a fence along its border with Croatia, with the migrants re-routing through Slovenia.
In an interview with the Kronen Zeitung daily, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said the summit would “either consolidate the unity of Europe or watch the slow decomposition of the EU.”
Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told the same daily that migrants were showing growing discontent and the police had to be “ready to react” against possible violence.
In an interview published on Sunday by the German newspaper Bild, Juncker urged countries to stop handing on migrants to neighbouring states in chaotic conditions. Member states “must take care to uphold orderly procedures and conditions,” he said.