After years of disputes about taking in refugees, France wants to forge a “coalition of the willing” with German help: at the EU interior ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg on Friday, the French Presidency wanted to reach agreement on a voluntary redistribution of refugees who mainly came to Europe via the Mediterranean are. “Germany is definitely there,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD). Austria, on the other hand, warned against sending a “wrong signal” to people smugglers.

France presented interior ministers with a six-page declaration for a “voluntary solidarity mechanism”. The core idea: Those who do not accept migrants from particularly burdened countries such as Italy or Greece should pay. Since the refugee crisis in 2015, Poland, Hungary and other EU countries have refused to take in people from Syria or Iraq, for example. But Poland now refers to the approximately three million war refugees from Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin was nonetheless optimistic about a breakthrough: “A large majority of countries have expressed themselves very positively about this solidarity, and more than ten countries are open to redistribution,” he said in Luxembourg. In his words, an agreement in the deadlocked dispute would be “a small revolution”.

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson was more cautious: “An agreement is within reach today, but we haven’t reached our goal yet,” she emphasized. Faeser said that if 10 to 12 countries were willing to accept refugees from the Mediterranean countries, “that would really be a great success”.

Resistance to the redistribution plans came from Austria: the Austrian Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, was “very skeptical, even negative”. What is important, however, is “a robust, functioning external border protection”. According to diplomats, the Netherlands also does not want to participate.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, who is also responsible for immigration, called on the EU countries to come to an agreement: “If we can take in millions of people in the European Union from Ukraine, then we must also take in a few thousand people who do not come from Ukraine,” said he.