Interior min: Estonia not agreeing with Commission's refugee quota proposal

Põgenikud Sitsiilia külas Augustas.

PHOTO: Francesco Malavolta / Scanpix

Estonian Interior Minister Hanno Pevkur said on Wednesday that Estonia understands the solidarity principle when helping refugees and supports the need to solve the refugee crisis in countries on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, but does not support quotas for resettling and relocating refugees and considers the refugee number proposed to Estonia disproportionate.

At the same time Pevkur confirmed that Estonia is ready to look for a compromise for voluntarily accepting refugees. "Taking into account the scope of the Mediterranean Sea crisis and its influence on the whole European Union, the question is not whether to help but rather how and in what capacity. Estonia is ready to look for a balanced compromise for accepting refugees voluntarily," Pevkur said.

According to Pevkur the current capability of countries as well as possibility for accepting refugees has to be taken into account when looking for solutions. "It seems reasonable that to continue with the process specific bilateral actions would be agreed upon between member states and the European Commission, and different countries' capability as well as timetable for accepting refugees would be discussed," he said.

When commenting on the quota proposed by the Commission, Pevkur said that Estonia unfortunately cannot agree with the Commission's approach. He added that Estonia's population makes up about 0.26 percent of the EU population and gross domestic product 0.14 percent of the EU's GDP, so the proposal is about 10 times bigger and disproportionate.

According to Pevkur Estonia is ready to move forward constructively to find a solution to the migration problem if the Commission is willing to take into account the considerably increased number of asylum seekers in Estonia as well as Estonia's current capability, necessary preparations for finding accommodation places and other activities.

On Wednesday the European Commission announced that 738 refugees from Greece and Italy would be relocated to Estonia in addition to the 326 people who have been granted international protection and whose number was announced a few weeks ago.

By today 108 persons have been granted international protection in Estonia. In 2015 a total of 90 people have seeked asylum in Estonia, nearly half of whom are from Ukraine.

The Estonian government is to form its position most likely during a sitting on June 11, while on June 12 a joint meeting of Estonian parliamentary committees will take place. On June 16 a meeting of EU Justice and Home Affairs Council is to take place in Brussels where member states' positions regarding accepting refugees will be discussed. On June 25 and 26 a European Council meeting will take place to discuss the same issue and Prime Minister Taavi Roivas will attend the meeting.

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