BRUSSELS – European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on EU countries Wednesday to agree by next week to share 160,000 refugees, warning that Greece, Italy and Hungary can no longer cope alone.
In an impassioned appeal at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Juncker unveiled a list of new proposals to help Europe confront its biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
"The refugee crisis will not simply go away," Juncker told EU lawmakers, noting that some 500,000 migrants have entered Europe this year, many from conflict torn Syria and Libya. "It is high time to act."
"We are fighting against Islamic State, why are we not ready to accept those who are fleeing Islamic state?" he said.
Juncker unveiled a new plan for 22 states to share 120,000 refugees from Greece, Italy and Hungary, on top of a proposal the EU's executive made in May to share 40,000 refugees from just Greece and Italy.
Hungary estimates that more than 160,000 people have crossed its borders alone this year.
The EU's first refugee plan never won full support, and only around 32,000 refugees have been allocated. Hungary was among the countries to reject it, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Britain, Ireland and Denmark are legally exempt, but could choose to take part.
Juncker wants both plans endorsed on Monday at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.
He also announced a list of "safe countries" including Albania and Kosovo, from where thousands of people have fled this year.
The "safe country" tag is likely to mean that few asylum applications by nationals from those countries are likely to succeed as these people would be hard pressed to justify violence or persecution against them.
Longer-term, the Commission also unveiled a plan to set up a 1.8 billion euro ($2 billion) fund to help Africa nations better manage their borders and help reduce the number of migrants heading for Europe.