Hungary would be one of the countries affected by the proposal
Furious MEPs have proposed adding a radical new stick with which to beat countries who fail to show “solidarity” in the battle to finally bring Europe’s migrant chaos under control.
But Eastern European members are likely to react with outrage to the controversial solution, which would cost them hundreds of millions of pounds a year in development funding.
And it would be a risky move at a time of growing euroscepticism across the continent, with anti-Brussels parties on the march and migration an increasingly contentious issue with voters.
In a sign of the tensions the plan could inflame, one outraged Polish MEP blasted it as “illegal” and defiantly told other members of the parliament: “We will not give it [the money] to you.”
Under proposals put before the European Parliament yesterday any EU state which refuses to accept migrants under the Brussels quota scheme would automatically have 10 per cent of development cash cut.
The figure would be deducted from Social Cohesion Fund payouts, which go to the bloc’s 15 poorest nations are are designed to slowly reduce economic inequality across the continent.
The proposal was put forward by Belgian MEP Gérard Deprez
But Poland's Jan Olbrycht said his country would not accept such penalties
Four of the fund’s biggest recipients – Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – have refused to acknowledge migrant quotas and are locked in a legal battle with Brussels over their imposition.
Under the proposed scheme any freezes in the payouts would have to be voted through annually by the European Parliament and the EU Council, but would only require a two-thirds majority of member states to prevent a bloc veto.
Poland would be the biggest loser from any penalties to the tune of £280 million a year, whilst the Czech Republic would lose £76 million annually, Hungary £73 million and Slovakia £50 million.
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The plan was put before the EU Parliament’s budget committee yesterday by Belgian MEP Gérard Deprez, who told members desperate times call for desperate measures.
He said: “I think the solution of automatically withholding monies due is more effective and simpler to manage than a penalty or fines system, because with the fine system you would have to enforce it and get the country to cough up.”
He added that any cash saved by the programme would be channeled back via a Dublin agreement fund towards helping member states who had taken in their share of migrants with reception costs.
We will not give it [the money] to you
Polish MEP Jan Olbrycht
But the plan was given a cautious welcome by other political groupings on the committee, who applauded the intention to enforce the principle of solidarity but suggested other mechanism may work better.
In particular MEPs raised concerns that targeting the Social Cohesion Fund would pick on poorer Eastern European states and would allow some western countries, which do not receive payouts, to shirk their responsibilities.
German MEP Monika Hohlmeier said: “We’ve had it for 15 years and we’ve been talking about it for seven years and member states have refused any solution to amending Dublin even though they say that it goes in the wrong direction.
“It’s actually undermining the EU as a whole. It’s leading to damnation and we aren’t solving the migration problem and that means the member states are rowing more and more often and disagreeing more and more often, so it has a devastating and destructive effect.
“We can’t have a situation where one part of the member states are shouldering the responsibility, a third is trying to help and then the final third of the countries is doing nothing at all.”
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An African migrant is helped by emergency personnel after crossing the border fence between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Ceuta
Polish MEP Jan Olbrycht blasted the proposed scheme as “illegal” and said his country would fight tooth and nail to prevent it from ever becoming a reality.
He said: “We will not give it [the money] to you. This [the Social Cohesion Fund] is a transfer which is linked to the single market so this is not legal.
“This is an investment which is ongoing, this is a commitment of the European Union. A contract has been signed.”
But his Spanish colleague Eider Gardiazabal Rubial shot back: “It’s quite surprising to be discussing whether a member state can decide to meet its obligations and whether or not we should apply penalties. It’s right to have some kind of penalty.”
An official from the EU Commission later told the meeting that eurocrats had a “cautious view” on the legality of the proposal. It will now be opened up for suggested amendments before being put to a vote of budget committee members next month.