The Latest: Austria cancels pre-summit meeting on refugees
Feb. 17, 2016
BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on EU summit preparations, focusing on the issues of migrants and Britain's calls for reform (all times local):
Austria has cancelled a meeting about the refugee crisis ahead of the EU summit in Brussels after Turkey's prime minister pulled out.
Leaders from a dozen nations were supposed to meet at the Austrian mission in Brussels in the run-up to Thursday's summit to discuss how the EU and Turkey can cooperate to contain the flood of migrants into the continent.
Davutoglu announced he would cancel the trip after a car bomb in Ankara killed at least 28 people and wounded 61 others.
An Austrian diplomat in Brussels later Wednesday confirmed the entire meeting would be canceled. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak about a decision that was made in Vienna.
—By Raf Casert in Brussels
Croatia has sent back more than 200 migrants, including women and children, to Serbia as rules tighten for letting people seeking asylum into the European Union.
The migrants demanded Wednesday to be let through the border, chanting: "We won't go back!" They had arrived on a train late Tuesday to Sid, a Serbian border town.
EU nations have sought to stem the influx of asylum-seekers after more than one million came in 2015. Austria, Slovenia and Croatia have limited the numbers of newcomers.
Serbia has said it also will send those rejected by the EU back to their countries. Now government minister Aleksandar Vulin says Serbia won't take back any more migrants from Croatia.
There are fears that tens of thousands of migrants could get stuck across the Balkans with the new restrictions, fueling tensions in the volatile region.
France's Prime Minister has told his country's parliament that a British exit from the European Union would be a shock to Europe and the world.
Speaking at National Assembly Wednesday, Manuel Valls said that "we hope and think" that a deal can be reached that satisfies Britain — whose leader David Cameron is pushing for reform.
Valls warned lawmakers that a so-called "Brexit" would send shockwaves "that we have trouble imagining in terms of the consequences on Europe."
He added that it will also have ramifications beyond the EU and change the world view of Europe as a whole.
This item has been corrected to show the accurate spelling of the prime minister's name is Manuel Valls.
Hungary's prime minister has held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that the migrant influx is eroding the national identity of EU members and raising terror threats.
Viktor Orban's trip to Moscow on Wednesday came a day before a European Union summit, where the migrant crisis is expected to weigh heavily on the agenda.
Orban said that Hungary disagrees with those in the EU who see the arrival of migrants as positive. He said that Hungary and some others want to protect their ethnic and Christian roots against an uncontrolled flow of migrants.
Putin said Russia sympathizes with the Hungarian government for its efforts to preserve the nation's identity. He added that defeating extremism and rebuilding the fractured Mideast states are essential for stemming the migrant flow.
Austria's interior ministry says it will allow no more than 80 migrants a day to apply for asylum at southern border crossing points.
Johanna Mikl-Leitner also says that up to 3,200 people will be allowed to enter Austria "who are seeking international protection in a neighboring country." That is an allusion to Germany, which has been the main country of choice for most of the migrants seeking new lives within the EU.
She said Wednesday that crossings will be temporarily closed to migrants once one of the daily limits is reached but further requests for asylum will remain possible for those already inside Austria.
The new rules on the border to Slovenia go into effect Friday. About 200 people daily now apply for Austrian asylum.
The Czech Republic's prime minister says he is ready to work to achieve an EU deal with Britain on reforms at the EU summit this week, but not at the expense of his country's citizens.
Bohuslav Sobotka says the limit on benefits for workers that Britain is requesting should not be applicable to those who are already working in Britain, only for workers arriving in the future.
Speaking after a meeting of his government on Wednesday, Sobotka said he is only ready to support a deal with Britain that "will not harm our citizens."
Only about 35,000 Czechs currently work in Britain, a much smaller number than workers from other Central European post-Communist countries such as Poland or Hungary.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will press other European Union leaders at a summit this week to work with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants.
Merkel says it would be "ridiculous" to talk about setting new quotas to divide up migrants among EU nations when a previous quota has not yet been fulfilled.
Instead, she told parliament on Wednesday that Europe should work with Turkey to improve the lives of Syrian and other refugees there.
She says "our goal is to drastically and lastingly reduce the number of migrants so as to better help those people who really need our assistance."
Chancellor Angela Merkel says it's in Germany's "national interest" for Britain to remain part of the European Union.
Merkel told parliament on Wednesday that Britain was a key ally of Germany on many issues and that she would do everything possible to ensure that the nation remained an "active member" of the trade bloc.
Merkel's comments came ahead of a two-day summit in Brussels where Britain's upcoming referendum on whether to stay in the EU is a major topic.