WASHINGTON — European Union interior ministers holding an emergency meeting in Brussels agreed Monday to resettle an initial group of 40,000 Syrian refugees, the EU ambassador to the United States says. But they'll need more time to resolve conflicts over a proposal to deal with 120,000 more and then with a flood of migrants that have followed.
"The war in Syria has created the greatest humanitarian tragedy probably of our generation," Ambassador David O'Sullivan said on Capital Download. "This is putting the European system under unprecedented pressure. It's not surprising that we've struggled a little to find what's the best response, and we'll probably need a little bit more time to find a way forward."
The fiercest debate involves a proposal unveiled last week by EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to impose mandatory quotas on all 28 EU members to take a specified number of another 120,000 Syrian asylum-seekers, an idea embraced by Germany but rejected by Hungary and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
O'Sullivan told USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series that "the good side of the European character" has been demonstrated in Greece, Italy, Germany and elsewhere by providing safe haven for migrants who have made a dangerous journey from war-torn Syria. He adds, "We also have to acknowledge that many people are frightened. Many people are worried that somehow this situation (will be) getting out of control."