Walking right over national sensibilities – that´s a huge thing in the EU context.
Formally of course, it was nothing special. It´s all in the treaty, a treaty that every EU member state has agreed too:
The EU shall develop…”a common system of temporary protection for displaced persons in the event of a massive inflow (TFEU Art 78 c).
”The policies of the Union set out in this Chapter and their implementation shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States (TFEU Art 80).
Council will decide on this with qualified majority.
That means at least 14 countries out of the 25 voting, representing 65 percent of the population.
The yes vote came from 20 countries representing more than 88 percent of the population.
Still, in reality it was a spectacular brake with EU tradition.
In the EU you normally never use the weight of the majority on recalcitrants.
You argue, you coax, you explain, you give them time, you pay them off, you invent an opt-out or an opt-in…
Truth be told, that oh-so-familiar exercise took place this time too. For about two weeks.
They got nowhere with the Eastern European countries.
So why not go on, like the EU always has done before, give it more time?
One obvious explanation is that the issue at hand – large inflow of refugees – needs urgent action and action at the EU level.
After all, we´ve all seen that what one country does in this context, immidiately has effects on its neighbours.
I believe another explanation as to why the EU is taking the hard line here, would be the effect of the Greek crisis.
No, let me be more specific: The effect of the Greek politicians´ way of handling the Greek crisis.
For more than five years Greek politicians simply would not believe that the rest of the EU, the eurozone, were not going to bail them out. Greek politicians of all political colours kept at it, not hearing that the answer was no.
They used up a whole lot of patience on the other side but were not kicked out.
Hungary´s Prime minister Viktor Orban and UK`s Prime minister David Cameon seems to have taken this as a carte blanche to make their own demands on the EU, convinced that the EU in the end always backs down, gives in, pays up.
Maybe the EU leaders´ patience actually ran out with the Greek fight.
I think the vote on the Council over refugees quotas is a sign that they´re not about to let the slowest in the convoy dictate the speed (and direction) on what they perceive to be vital issues.
It rather looks as though to many member countries, the European Union is a much too precious politicial instrument to allow going to waste simply because there are some who would prefer not working together.
The vote last night at the Council of Ministers should have Mr Cameron worried.