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6th Jun 2020

Juncker annoys centre-right on migration

  • Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said national governments should adopt a quota system for adopting refugees (Photo: European Parliament)

EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said the outcome of the EU's recent summit on migration was "inadequate" and put himself directly at odds with his own centre-right political family by calling for the door to be opened to legal migration.

“We cannot leave the management of placing refugees alone to those member states directly concerned”, Juncker told the European Parliament on Wednesday (29 April), adding that the commission will propose a 'relocation system' on 13 May.

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  • Juncker (l) said in the EP plenary that the outcome of last week's summit, chaired by Donald Tusk (r) was 'inadequate' (Photo: European Parliament)

Under current rules, asylum applications must be done in the EU country of arrival, placing a heavy burden on countries like Malta and Italy, which receive most of the boat migrants arriving from Libya.

He also asked national governments to allow more people to enter the EU legally, arguing it would help reduce the number of boat trips with desperate migrants trying to make it across the Mediterranean Sea.

“We have to leave the door partly ajar. If we don't open the door to legal migration, then the unfortunate people of the world will be climbing in through our windows”, said Juncker.

Donald Tusk, EU president on behalf of the national governments, responded to the criticism by saying the prime ministers of Italy and Malta had expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the migration summit.

“Prime minister Renzi said after the meeting – and I quote – Europe has shown serious commitment. For the first time, there is a shared strategic approach”, he reminded MEPs.

“Similarly, Joseph Muscat of Malta also said there is a new sense of resolve. What happened last week definitely changed the mood in the European Council and in member states. In this case, I will respect the opinions of the leaders in the countries most affected.”

While Juncker's statement are unlikely to be popular with several governments, they received praise from many members of the European Parliament – mainly from the political groups on the left.

Meanwhile the centre-right EPP - to which Juncker belongs - told Juncker he was "wrong".

“If you say that if you open up the door to legal migration to our labour markets, that this will put an end to all the misery and destitution around the Mediterranean region, I'm afraid you are wrong”, German MEP Manfred Weber said.

“We are talking about maybe 500,000, maybe a million Africans, are we going to welcome all of these people? … We have to remember that one in five young people in Europe has no employment at the moment.”

Socialist leader Gianni Pittella, an Italian, agreed with Juncker that it is “unfair … for a few states to take 80 percent of asylum seekers”.

“We talk too much about security, too little about welcoming people”, said Pittella.

The debate also showed that national elections in the UK are just a week away, with MEPs from the UK Independence Party (Ukip) and the ruling Conservative party trading blows.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said Europe was “directly guilty for the drownings that are going on” because of the support for the bombings which led to the fall of Gaddafi has made Libya a “failed state”.

He also took aim at the EU's agricultural policy which “puts boundaries up to [Africans] selling us agricultural produce”.

But Farage's comments that Islamic extremists are going to “flood our continent” was heavily criticised by Dutch liberal MEP Sophie in 't Veld.

“What we are talking about today is rescuing people. … It has nothing to do with a flood of jihadi's. That is only invented by Mr Farage to get elected on 7 May. I think it's populist and despicable”, said In 't Veld.

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