EPP candidate claims ‘no more empty promises’ on migration

Former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker warns Malta over unemployment rates; says European solidarity on migration should not remain an empty promise.

EPP candidate for President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker (Photo: Ray Attard)
EPP candidate for President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker (Photo: Ray Attard)

Former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker plans to see that European solidarity on migration does not remain an empty promise but becomes a reality.

Juncker has been elected by the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) to be its candidate for president of the European Commission. Hosted by the Nationalist Party, Juncker is currently in Malta where he addressed a press conference together with PN leader Simon Busuttil.

Outlining his proposals for the presidency, Juncker said that migration was not “just a national issue but a European problem that must be shouldered by all countries”.

“Countries are fed up with empty promises and government across the EU know they have to be proactive for solidarity to be effective. The EU has to prove that this is not just a national problem,” Juncker told journalists gathered at the PN’s headquarters.

Juncker recounted how during the Balkans war, Luxembourg had shouldered the Kosovan migrants by itself, and he insisted that this was not right as European countries have to shoulder the influx as well.

He pointed out that given Malta’s strategic geographical position, it could suffer the same fate as Luxembourg did.

“No more empty promises will be made. I will try to address to issue of European solidarity, more so in the case of Malta and other small countries which are in a very strategic position,” Juncker said.

A change in the Dublin II regulation is seen key to address Malta’s situation.

The Dublin regulation presumes that the country to which the asylum seeker is to be returned will itself support the individual's human rights and will determine the application for refugee status in accordance with the standards of international law.  

While the European Greens have called for a reform of the Regulation, by getting rid of the current rules that force refugees to apply for asylum only in the country where they have first entered the EU, this was not included in the manifestos of the European Socialists and the EPP.

Flanked by Busuttil, Juncker warned Malta over its “rising” unemployment rates, insisting that if these were to exceed the 7.5% mark, Malta would be threading on thin ice and risk consequences.

NSO statistics have revealed that Malta’s unemployment rates currently stand at 6.8%, which according to Juncker, are still relatively low when compared with the 11.8% average of the European Union.

Nevertheless, Juncker claimed that if Malta’s joblessness were to reach 7.5%, there would be "no going back", and in addition, unemployment would further increase.

EPP candidate Juncker is looking to replace incumbent European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who has held the position since November 2004. Barroso’s tenure as president has seen many European countries, most notably Greece, Italy and Spain, suffer catastrophic financial results.

The fiscal storm led to countries implementing heavy austerity measures, rising unemployment rates and major fiscal cuts. As opposed to Barroso, however, Juncker outlined that his presidency would focus on “fiscal consolidation” rather than austerity measures.

On the composition of the European Commission, Juncker argued that the 28 commissioners have to be more efficient in addressing the EU policies.

Turning his attention on the Ukraine crisis, Juncker underlined that Europe does not want to go to war with Russia.

Nevertheless, he argued that so far, the EU has not done enough and that it has to react by imposing sanctions.

On his part, PN leader Simon Busuttil, said the PN is endorsing Juncker’s presidency candidacy because he knows the issues that small countries face and because, he is a “convinced” European that has proved his worth.

On the upcoming European elections, Busuttil said despite starting at a big disadvantage, the PN “deserves” to get the third seat.