STRASBOURG — The European Parliament’s party leaders called on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Tuesday to use his State of the Union speech to take aim at countries that have opposed his plans to relocate refugees across the EU.
In a meeting behind closed doors, the political group leaders urged Juncker to join them in criticizing EU member states for their lack of unity on how to handle the influx of asylum-seekers from the Middle East to Europe.
“President Pittella will not be challenging the President but challenging the governments,” said a spokesperson for Italian MEP Gianni Pittella, the president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats group, who will be among the parliamentarians responding to Juncker’s speech.
“Finally the Commission had the courage to put together a real number, 160,000,” the spokesperson said. “Now it’s up to the member states to give up their selfishness and irresponsibility. Juncker must underline that some countries have proven solidarity while others haven’t.”
German MEP Manfred Weber, the president of the European People’s Party group, also said it was up to EU countries to act.
“I ask the member states to use this week now as a starting point for a discussion especially on the solidarity mechanism,” Weber said at a press conference after the meeting. “There are a lot of questions on the details of the legislation, but the starting point is to be open for the debate after the decision from the European Commission.”
Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, took direct aim at European Council President Donald Tusk, saying he had failed to rally support from countries that oppose a mandatory relocation mechanism for asylum-seekers.
Verhofstadt has demanded that Tusk attend the State of the Union speech Wednesday so that he can take part in the debate, and has also been pushing for EU leaders to convene a special summit on the migration issue.
Tusk will be traveling throughout Turkey, Israel and Palestinian-controlled territories to visit refugee camps and discuss the migration, but will not attend the plenary. Tusk did give a speech on the subject Monday evening in Brussels, saying “Today’s disputes about how to apply solidarity in practice, especially in the context of refugees, show us that although we are not perfect, we address this idea with all seriousness.”
Verhofstadt said in a statement: “If nothing else, [Tusk] should come to the European Parliament to explain why EU member states have totally failed to reach a common position; this is one of the the biggest human tragedies since the foundation of the EU.”
Added Verhofstadt, “Why is he refusing to organize an extraordinary summit to deal with this humanitarian disaster? It is unacceptable that he refuses to do his job.”
EU ministers of home affairs are set to meet on September 14 to discuss migration; the next EU summit is scheduled for October 15 and 16.
Sources said that if there seems to be a wide divergence in positions between the ministers next week on how to handle the crisis, an emergency summit could still be called ahead of the U.N. General Assembly on September 26.
“Tusk is in close contact with EU leaders and as always ready to convene a meeting should that prove necessary,” said Council spokesperson Preben Aamann. “Migration will be at the next [summit] on 15-16 October. At this stage, there is no plan to convene another emergency meeting of the European Council on migration before that.”