STRASBOURG (Reuters) - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker detailed a plan to tackle the EU migrant crisis in an annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
Here are elements of what the EU executive president wants the EU countries to agree on. An emergency meeting of interior ministers is scheduled for Monday to discuss the new proposals.
Juncker proposed relocating a total of 160,000 asylum seekers from Greece (66,400) Hungary (54,000) and Italy (39,600) to other EU countries over two years. The hosting states would receive 6,000 euros per person, while Greece, Hungary and Italy will be paid 500 euros for each migrant relocated to cover transport costs. The total cost of the operation for the EU budget is estimated at 780 million euros ($869.4 million). Aside from the UK, Ireland and Denmark, EU states would be obliged to participate to the scheme and take in quotas of asylum seekers, with Germany and France receiving the highest numbers. States have the possibility to get a one-year exemption "for justified and objective reasons", but in exchange will have to offer a financial compensation of up to 0.002 percent of their gross domestic product. On top of these emergency measures, Juncker also proposed a permanent mechanism of relocation, modifying the Dublin system by which claims are handled by the first EU state reached by asylum seekers. Countries facing an emergency in the future will be able to share the arriving asylum seekers with other EU states. The Commission will establish when an emergency arises on the basis of several criteria, including the increase in the number of asylum applicants and the illegal border crossings over a period of six months.
EU countries involved in the relocation plan will have to set up reception centers, known as hotspots, to identify and fingerprint migrants to make sure that they do not claim asylum in other EU countries. EU staff will work in the hotspots to streamline the procedures. Italy and Greece have agreed to set up hotspots, while Hungary has so far opposed the idea.
Juncker proposed a list of safe countries whose citizens are more likely to be returned swiftly to their home country if they claim asylum in the EU. Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey are included in the first list. Around 17 percent of the total number of applications lodged in the EU come from citizens of these seven countries. In addition, Juncker proposed an action plan to speed up deportations of other migrants who are not entitled to claim asylum in the EU. The plan includes stepping up voluntary returns, signing readmission agreements with African and Asian countries and strengthening the role of the EU border control agency Frontex which should be equipped with "rapid return intervention teams" to deport irregular migrants.
Frontex will also be enhanced to become "a fully operational European border and coast guard system," Juncker told the European Parliament. He said that the Commission would propose "ambitious steps" towards a European Border and Coast Guard service before the end of the year.
To address the root causes of irregular migration, Juncker proposed setting up an emergency trust fund for Africa which will be funded with 1.8 billion euros from the EU budget and other spontaneous national contributions. The fund is aimed at giving economic support and improving migration management capacities of Sub-Saharan countries, Eastern and Northern African states. The target is to have a full agreement on the establishment of the fund at the EU-African Union summit in Malta on November 11-12. Juncker also wants the European Union to increase its diplomatic efforts to solve the Syrian and Libyan crises.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)