Juncker slams EU member states for failing to deliver on migration

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Brussels (dpa) – EU member states are failing to deliver on their pledges to help tackle the bloc’s migration crisis, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday, demanding action from leaders when they meet this week.

He called on governments to bridge a shortfall of more than 2.5 billion euros (2.84 billion dollars) between funding pledges made by EU leaders at an emergency summit in September, and actual contributions made since then.

“It is not enough to make promises,” Juncker said in an address to the European Parliament ahead of Thursday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

“Actions count,” he said.

The European Union is experiencing its biggest migration influx since World War II, with many people arriving from Syria and other war-torn countries and qualifying for asylum in the bloc.

By Tuesday, more than 606,500 migrants and asylum seekers had reached Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Greece and Italy, the main two points of entry into the EU, have come under particular strain, but the migration crisis has led to political tensions throughout the bloc.

The EU’s approach focuses on relieving the pressure on the frontline countries, strengthening the bloc’s external borders and working with third countries in an effort to curb the number of people travelling to Europe.

But on all these fronts, member states are falling short, the commission said Wednesday.

Juncker called on governments to deliver on funding pledges aimed, among other things, at improving living conditions for displaced Syrians in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Member states had offered just 8 million euros out of an overall 500 million euros they had promised to contribute to a trust fund for Syria, the commission chief said.

They had also promised on September 23 to provide another 500 million euros in humanitarian aid for organizations such as the World Food Programme, but only 275 million euros have been offered, Juncker said.

The majority of that aid – 225 million euros – had come from Britain alone, he said.

Finally, a 1.8-billion-euro trust fund aimed at curbing migration from the African continent had so far only received 9 million euros in member state funding, the commission chief added.

Juncker also pointed to staffing shortfalls for the agencies tasked with helping Greece and Italy with the reception and relocation of migrants.

Despite promises to stock up the European Asylum Support Office by 774 officers, EU capitals have only offered 81 people, he told EU lawmakers. Just 41 have been provided in response to a request to boost the EU’s border agency Frontex by 775 staff, Juncker added.

Brussels is also waiting for EU capitals to say how many asylum seekers they can take in, after member states promised to relocate an overall 160,000 from Italy and Greece, commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said earlier Wednesday.

So far, just 19 people have been moved from Italy to Sweden under the scheme.

The commission is also preparing longer-term measures to control the migration flow, such as reforms to the EU’s asylum system, a permanent refugee redistribution scheme, and legal migration channels into the bloc.

“It would do us all good to tell the people in our countries that this migration crisis won’t be over at Christmas, it will continue for years,” Juncker said.

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