EU chief says Europe's reputation hurt over refugee effort
Jan. 15, 2016
BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's reputation is being tarnished by the failure of member countries to manage the refugee emergency, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Friday.
More than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015 seeking sanctuary or jobs. The numbers have overwhelmed border authorities and reception centers, particularly in Greece and Italy.
An EU plan was drawn up and launched in September to share 160,000 potential refugees in those two countries among EU partners, but fewer than 300 people have been processed.
Juncker said it is unacceptable "that certain member states say they are not going to accept refugees in their countries. That is not possible."
He said that Europe was known as a wealthy, admirable continent but that "now we do appear as being the weakest part, and the poorest part of the world."
Juncker said he was embarrassed explaining Europe's migrant problems to leaders of countries like Jordan or Lebanon, which are hosting more than two million refugees.
"Less arrogance and more performance, that's got to be our watchword for the future," he told reporters in Brussels at a year-opening press conference.
Part of the EU effort is to stop people leaving Turkey for Greece, and a package of incentives has been rolled out to persuade the Turkish authorities to do more.
However, Italy is currently blocking a multi-billion euro fund for Syrian refugees in Turkey, insisting the money be paid entirely from EU coffers rather than by member countries.
Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Friday after chairing a meeting of EU counterparts in Brussels that Italy had not lifted objections to the way the 3 billion euro ($3.3 billion) fund should be paid "but we hope that that is possible very, very soon."
Italy's Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan said Rome supports Turkey's efforts to manage two million Syrian refugees on its soil but wants to clarify "if there's still space in the EU budget so the 3 billion can be covered without member states' contributions."
Juncker's Commission is offering to pay 500 million euros.