Brussels: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said EU member states have “failed to deliver” on the migrant crisis and warned that restoring borders in response to the problem could kill off the internal market.
Outlining his priorities for the New Year, Juncker vowed not to abandon his plans to relocate thousands of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece that were finally approved in October over the opposition of several eastern European capitals.
So far just 272 refugees have been moved to other countries out of the 160,000 that European Union nations agreed to relocate as the continent faced a wave of people fleeing conflict in Syria and elsewhere.
“It’s not the commission that has not delivered,” Juncker, the head of the executive branch of the 28-nation union, told a press conference.
“But a number of member states have failed to fully deliver on what we need to do and what needs to be done,” he added.
Instead of working together for a common solution, he complained that member states were reintroducing border controls that ultimately threatened the Schengen system of passport-free travel and the broader EU project.
“Who kills Schengen will eventually put the internal market to the grave,” Juncker said, adding it would lead to “an unemployment problem which will not be manageable any more.”
Europe is already struggling with a massive economic problem with more than 10 percent out of work, including 50 percent of young people in countries like Greece and Spain.
“When all this breaks down, the economic price, the loss of growth and the damage for the European growth perspectives will be enormous,” he said.
“Without Schengen, free movement of workers, without freedom of European citizens to travel, the euro makes no sense,” he said, referring to the 19-country single currency zone.
Juncker said he was “getting a little tired” that the commission was coming under fire for not doing enough to resolve the worst migrant crisis since World War II when it has spent months drawing up joint relocation and other plans.
He excoriated member states for struggling to implement plans they had themselves agreed on, warning that the EU was “moving toward a serious crisis in terms of credibility” if they don’t assume their legal and political commitments.