Luxembourg (AFP) - The European Commission will weigh the economic cost of the refugee crisis, Luxembourg's finance minister said on Friday, as concern grows over the effects on national budgets of hosting tens of thousands of refugees.
"We have asked the European Commission to make an analysis on what the financial impact will be and can be," said Pierre Gramegna, the finance minister from Luxembourg, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
The request came as the bloc's divided member states argue over a plan from the commission, the EU's executive, to relocate up to 160,000 refugees from the over-stretched border states of Hungary, Italy and Greece.
But some member states are requesting that EU budget rules be waived to account for the financial cost of accepting refugees and raised their concerns at finance minister talks on Friday.
"The Luxembourg presidency invites the European Commission to examine how the crisis can be considered as extraordinary circumstances (regarding budgetary rules)," Gramegna said after the meeting.
The EU's Economics Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Ireland, Austria and Italy brought the concerns to the table.
"The Commission is the guardian of the treaties, and as always it will apply the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact (on budgetary discipline) for all member states, taking all factors into consideration," Moscovici said.
Irish Junior Minister for Finance Simon Harris estimated the that the cost for Ireland would be in the tens of millions.
"The cost to Ireland - and I don't like talking to this in terms of costs because we are talking about people's lives - of accommodating 4,000 refugees is in or around 48 million (euros) ($54 million)," said Harris.
At the talks, European Investment Bank head Werner Hoyer briefed the ministers on a plan to help finance and organise reception facilities for the refugees across the EU.
"This is the biggest change of the political landscape since the fall of the Berlin Wall; this will occupy us for years," Hoyer said.
Finland's Finance Minister Alexander Stubb said the refugee crisis was a "historic" challenge for the EU.
"This is a defining moment in European integration and in many ways a much more critical issue than we've had with the euro crisis," said Stubb.