Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

EU must compel US to take in Syrian refugees

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-09-15 08:38
EU must compel US to take in Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees walk towards a crossing point at Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 8, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

Politicians in Brussels are known to splash eye-catching slogans across huge banners adorning the 13-story European Commission building to drum up support for their political agendas. But recent months have not seen any such banner.

Because of the refugee and Greek debt crises, worsening security situation, an ambitious investment plan and the challenge of economic recovery, the Brussels officials' attention is elsewhere. Perhaps the EC building could have done with a banner with a new slogan: "Europeans, along with Americans welcome Syrian refugees".

With Syrian refugees flooding into the European Union, many EU countries have showed their compassionate side, albeit after some tragic events. Some EU member states still don't want to accept refugees, though.

Ordinary European families have exhibited their tolerant and activist side by offering the refugees every form of help within their means. Even some Chinese companies have joined the charity efforts in Greece, which, with Hungary, is the refugees' gateway to the EU.

And in response to the compassionate side of people in the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on Wednesday that "for Europe it (solving the refugee crisis) is also a matter of historical fairness", and urged all EU member states to act as a union to provide about 500,000 refugees asylum. While appealing to the EU states to take in more refugees, Juncker reminded them that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time or the other been a refugee and Europe's history is marked by millions of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship or oppression.

Juncker's appeal echoed that of other EU politicians, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It sits well with the call of ordinary Europeans, too. But given the magnitude of the refugee crisis and the efforts needed to resolve it, the EU should ask the United Sates to fulfill its due responsibilities.

The reason is obvious: as Juncker put it, for "historical fairness", the US is obliged to follow EU countries. More importantly, the US cannot pretend that it has nothing to do with the increasing tensions and conflicts in West Asia and North Africa.

As a US ally, Brussels has forged many trans-Atlantic projects with Washington, and the EC even listed the "Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" as one of its top 10 priorities for its work agenda last November. Therefore, the refugee crisis should compel the EC to forge another trans-Atlantic partnership to provide the fleeing people from the Middle East proper asylum. Also, when EU leaders meet US President Barack Obama at UN headquarters, they should compel him to take in some of the refugees despite the US administration's reluctance to do so.

Washington has so far turned a blind eye to the refugee crisis, although sources say it has agreed to accept "at least" 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. This is a shame as Germany has "welcomed" more than 10,000 refugees in one week while promising to offer home to 800,000.

Apart from the US, the United Kingdom has also been criticized for doing "too little, too late" to help the refugees.

It's time Brussels and Washington reflected on what led to the refugee crisis, the worst since World War II, and agreed to not cause such one again.

The author is China Daily chief correspondent in Brussels and can be reached at

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