'EU lacks Europe & Union': Juncker announces plan to accept 160k refugees
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled new plans to tackle the escalating refugee crisis, saying the bloc is “not in a good place” and that migration must not be seen as a problem. He proposed a quota system for the relocation of 160,000 refugees.
Speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday, Juncker said there is a “lack of Europe in the EU and there is a lack of union in the European Union. That has to change.”
In his Wednesday speech, Juncker stressed that “as long as there is war in Syria, the refugee crisis will simply not go away.”
"We are fighting the Islamic State – why are we not ready to accept those fleeing the Islamic State?" he added.
Juncker also proposed a quota system for the relocation of 120,000 people, in addition to the 40,000 proposed in May.
"This has to be done in a compulsory way...160,000, that's the number. I hope that this time everyone will be on board. No rhetoric, action is what is needed," he said.
The EU Commission president called on member states to allow asylum seekers to work as soon as they arrive in their new countries.
"We should do everything to change our nation legislation to allow refugees to work from day one when they arrive," he said.
Europe is an “aging continent in demographic decline,” he said, adding that migration should be viewed as a resource rather than a problem.
“Migration has to be legalized. We have to organize legal ways to Europe,” Juncker added, stating that the Commission will unveil a “well-designed legal migration package” early next year.
But Juncker has no intention of accepting everyone who has entered the bloc's borders. He said the Commission will propose a list of “safe countries," and those who have entered the EU from those nations will likely have to return home.
His “lack of union” comment likely refers to the fact that some countries, such as Germany and Spain, are willing to open their borders to new arrivals, while others – such as Hungary and Slovakia – are not exactly running to greet refugees with open arms.
Hungary, which has called the refugee crisis a “German problem,” has erected a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia, prompting criticism from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. That criticism led to France's ambassador being summoned to Budapest earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Slovakia has stated it only wants Christian refugees.
Political analyst Chris Bambery told RT that the lack of unity is a “huge mess.”
“We have countries offering to take in larger numbers of refugees...for instance Germany. We have other countries saying they're going to take in far fewer numbers, Britain says they're going to take in just 20,000 and they'll select those people from camps...and other countries in Eastern Europe are saying they're not going to take in any refugees virtually...so there is a real division here at the heart of Europe,” he said.
He added that the situation is only going to get worse, not only because of the instability in Syria and Iraq, but also because of growing instability in North Africa.
'Winter is approaching'
Juncker also appealed to the human side of the refugee crisis on Wednesday, stressing that winter is just around the corner.
“Do we really want families sleeping in railway stations, in tents on cold nights?” he asked.
He drew numerous comparisons between Europeans and refugees, stating that “We Europeans should remember that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone at some point has been a refugee."
Juncker also stressed that there were huge waves of Irish, Scottish, and Polish immigration to the United States.
"We Europeans should know and never forget why the right to asylum is one of the fundamental, most important rights. We should not forget that,” he said.
The EU Commission president acknowledged that “Europe cannot house all the misery in the world,” but that the situation must be put into perspective. He spoke in numbers, stating that the refugee quota would represent just 0.11 percent of the EU population.
Juncker also said that control of the EU's external borders must be strengthened, stressing once again that details of a legal migration system into the bloc will be included in a proposal in early 2016.
The Wednesday speech comes as Europe struggles to tackle the worst refugee crisis since World War II. About 378,000 refugees – most of whom hail from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan – have entered the EU's borders this year alone.
Quotas are 'irrational'
The Czech Republic and Slovakia immediately rejected the notion of compulsory quotas following Juncker's speech on Wednesday.
"The compulsory quotas are not a good solution," the Czech Republic's prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, said in a statement. "To continue with a discussion about their establishment all across Europe only prevents us from taking really important and necessary steps."
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico described the talk of quotas as "irrational.”
"Migrants arriving in Europe do not want to stay in Slovakia. They don't have a base for their religion here, their relatives, they would run away anyway," he said, as quoted by Deutsche Welle.
Meanwhile, Polish prime minister candidate Beata Szydlo said: "What we're hearing today from Juncker is in a sense putting pressure on us. The Polish government should definitely not yield to this pressure,” as quoted by Reuters.
Bambery says that Eastern European countries, along with Britain, are unlikely to abide by Juncker's plan.
“I don't see the Eastern European countries, Hungary for instance – which has a strong anti-migrant right wing – really shifting very much. And it's hard to see what Juncker can do to bring these various Eastern European states, or indeed Britain, to order here,” he told RT.
He went on to state that countries are under pressure from anti-immigration parties, adding that British Prime Minister David Cameron has already “bowed to this pressure consistently.”
“I think there's a developing mess here...there doesn't seem to be a coordinated plan,” Bambery concluded.