In April 1999, when the refugee crisis in Kosovo was reaching a head, EU governments met in Luxembourg to discuss how they would handle a potential mass influx of Kosovar refugees into the EU. The idea was to learn from previous experience during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia (1991–5), when coordination between states had been haphazard and some countries, particularly Germany, ended up receiving far more refugees than others. This time, the aim was to establish some sort of ‘burden-sharing’ arrangement, whereby countries would pledge to admit and protect refugees in a more equitable fashion. Yet the EU was unable to impose any binding arrangement for distributing refugees, and all pledges were made on a strictly voluntary basis. There was no real or effective EU response. In the end, Germany ended up absorbing around 28 per cent of all those evacuated from the region to EU countries, France taking 12 per cent, Italy 11 per cent, Austria 9.6 per cent and the UK 8.2 per cent (van Selm 2002).
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