Juncker urges EU to re­sist pop­ulist mi­grant re­jec­tions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

EU gov­ern­ments have a duty to help the flood of mi­grants ar­riv­ing in Europe and not cave in to “pop­ulist” de­mands to turn them back, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wed­nes­day.

In an in­ter­view with AFP Wed­nes­day, Juncker said he was dis­ap­pointed that EU min­is­ters had failed late last month to agree on how to dis­trib­ute a to­tal of 40,000 mostly Syr­ian and Eritrean mi­grants from over­stretched Italy and Greece.

They agreed to start re­lo­cat­ing a lit­tle over 32,000 of the ar­rivals among the EU’s 28 mem­bers in Oc­to­ber, fall­ing around 8,000 short of the tar­get agreed by EU lead­ers at a sum­mit in June.

“Min­is­ters, un­like cit­i­zens, have an obli­ga­tion to act. We made pro­pos­als that went far, while still be­ing mod­est given the scale of the prob­lem,” Juncker said re­fer­ring to the pro­pos­als from the Com­mis­sion, the ex­ec­u­tive arm of the EU.

“We pro­posed a manda­tory sys­tem to re­dis­tribute asy­lum seek­ers and peo­ple who need in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion, but the mem­ber states did not fol­low us and we are forced to seek an agree­ment on a vol­un­tary ba­sis,” he said.

At a July 20 meet­ing in Brus- sels, EU jus­tice and home af­fairs min­is­ters agreed to re­lo­cate more than 32,250 Syr­i­ans, Eritre­ans, Iraqis and So­ma­lis who had landed in Greece and Italy which have borne the brunt of the in­flux.

The min­is­ters also agreed how­ever to take in some 22,500 Syr­ian refugees cur­rently liv­ing in camps out­side the EU — ex­ceed­ing their tar­get for 20,000.

Juncker said the EU would re­sume ef­forts in the au­tumn to reach the 40,000 tar­get.

“If we don’t get there on a vol­un­tary ba­sis, we will have to re­con­sider the com­mis­sion’s pro­pos­als,” the for­mer prime min­is­ter of the tiny duchy of Lux­em­bourg said.

“But I want to be­lieve that they will re­act am­bi­tiously,” he said.

Juncker said gov­ern­ments had to be firm and take the lead, when asked how the EU can help share the mi­grant bur­den with­out pro­vok­ing a back­lash that only helps pop­ulist and xeno­pho­bic move­ments.

“There are mo­ments in pol­i­tics when you must not fol­low the pop­ulists, oth­er­wise you be­come pop­ulist your­self,” Juncker said.

“You (EU mem­ber states) must not be­come blinded by pop­ulist thought which is present in ev­ery coun­try,” Juncker warned in an in­ter­view with AFP.


A mi­grant car­ries his child as he walks on train tracks to­ward the town of Gevgelija, on the Macedonian-Greek bor­der on Tues­day, Aug. 4.

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