Juncker calls for unified EU action on refugees

9 Sep 15

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has called on all 28 EU member states to endorse proposals for the emergency relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary.

In his first State of the Union address since his election as president, Juncker dwelt at the length on the ongoing refugee crisis and called for mitigating action both within Europe and beyond.

Among the proposals put forward were: a permanent relocation mechanism to deal future crises swiftly; action to strengthen the EU’s external borders; and a more assertive foreign policy and extra diplomatic action to address the crises in Syria and Libya.

Europe was the most stable and prosperous continent in the world, he said, yet Europeans should not forget that they almost all of them were once refugees themselves.

“Have we really forgotten that after the devastation of the Second World War, 60 million people were refugees in Europe?

“We Europeans should know and should never forget why giving refuge and complying with the fundamental right to asylum is so important.”

But common EU standards for dealing with asylum applications were not enough to cope with the current crisis and placed an unfair burden on those member states closest to refugees’ countries or origin, specifically Italy, Greece and Hungary, Juncker argued.

The commission is today proposing a second emergency mechanism that would relocate a further 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary to other member states. This follows a first emergency mechanism, proposed in May, to relocate 40,000 people.

These require adoption by member states at an extraordinary council of interior ministers on 14 September.

“We now need immediate action,” Juncker stated.

“We cannot leave Italy, Greece and Hungary to fare alone, just as we would not leave any other EU member state alone. For if it is Syria and Libya people are fleeing from today, it could just as easily be Ukraine tomorrow.”

On border control, Juncker said “ambitious” proposals for a common European border and coastguard system would be published before the end of the year. This would “cost money” but would be well invested.

And early next year, the commission planned to publish a package to expand legal migration routes and make them more attractive and deter people away from human traffickers.

“Let us not forget, we are an ageing continent in demographic decline. We will need talent. Over time, migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well-managed resource,” the commission president said.

Finally, he called for more assertive and united diplomatic efforts to address the root causes of the migration crisis. A €1.8bn emergency trust fund was today proposed to address crises in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, the Horn of Africa and north Africa.

“I expect all EU member states to pitch in,” Juncker said.

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