BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top executive proposed a plan on Wednesday to distribute 160,000 migrants throughout the member nations, even while acknowledging that this measure alone was inadequate to the depth of the crisis.
Citing history, morality and economics, the official, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, urged the bloc to put aside deep divisions over welcoming refugees from war-torn and poverty-stricken nations in the Middle East and Africa, and forge a stronger and more unified response.
Facing strong resistance by some members to a quota system that would compel them to take in a specified number of the new arrivals, Mr. Juncker cast the crisis as the most compelling one facing the bloc since World War II. He argued that it was not only a humanitarian issue, but also a test of the European Union’s fundamental ability to act in a unified manner and in accordance with its values, rather than following bureaucratic language or practices.
“There is not enough Europe in this union,” he said, referring to how the bloc has reacted so far. “And there is not enough union in this union. We have to change this. And we have to change this now.”
His tone mirrored, in many ways, that taken in recent days by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. Ms. Merkel also urged European nations on Wednesday to agree on plans for dealing with the influx of people, and she has said her country expects to receive 800,000 refugees this year alone.
Mr. Juncker also proposed unity on such matters as identifying those who are most likely to be granted asylum and establishing common standards for how they are treated, rather than a patchwork of national policies.
It is by no means certain that the plan he is advocating will be agreed to when officials meet on Monday to consider it. In any case, the program being pushed by Mr. Juncker is small relative to the scale of the challenge, with an estimated half-million people having endured hardship and risk to reach Europe so far this year.
“Do not underestimate the urgency,” Mr. Juncker said. “Do not underestimate our imperative to act. Winter is approaching — think of the families sleeping in parks and railway stations in Budapest, in tents in Traiskirchen or on shores in Kos. What will become of them on …Read More