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Juncker to announce new EU refugee plan

 The refugee crisis continues to receive maximum coverage in EU as well as American media. This Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will step up his efforts to get a faster response from the 28 EU member states, unveiling a plan to distribute equitably 120,000 to 160,000 refugees, during his first annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Juncker will also suggest a permanent mechanism to relocate people whose arrivals have put a strain on Italy, Greece and Hungary, suggest proposals to counter people-smuggling, help countries in Africa and the Middle East to create more jobs, support UN refugee programmes and offer ways for safe migration.

According to Italian media, the European Commission draft on the mandatory redistribution of migrants will also include a one-year opt-out option that, however, will compel the countries that choose it to pay a fine of 0.002% of GDP. Le Soir writes that a majority at the European Parliament fully supports Mr Juncker’s relocation system. Several media comment that the stand taken by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose government has taken in the greatest number of asylum-seekers, also help Europe get closer to a solution. Angela Merkel welcomed the Commission’s project as “a first important step” but claimed that she will not be satisfied with “symbolic” gestures, Le Figaro writes.

La Stampa reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated yesterday that it is crucial to distribute migrants through mandatory quotas across all EU countries. Op-eds in Sole 24 Ore andL’Express argue that Angela Merkel has gradually emerged as a true European leader, convinced that Europe and the euro are of strategic interest for Germany. Italia Oggi criticises EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs EC Vice-President Federica Mogherini, claiming that as she is “absent” regarding EU Foreign Affairs, Germany finally started assuming her position.

Ahead of today’s announcement, French President François Hollande said France would take in 24,000 asylum seekers. Britain, which will not take part in the plan, announced that it would take in up to 20,000 refugees over five years. Spain, which had complained its likely quota was too high, said on Tuesday it was ready to take whatever the European Union allocated to it. Several media nevertheless comment that this project is unlikely to receive support from countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. In a joint statement last week, the four countries said they would not accept any mandatory or permanent quotas to take in migrants. Nevertheless, while Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban remains vocally opposed to relocation quotas, his country will now benefit from the scheme, having taken in tens of thousands. And Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz conceded on Tuesday that Warsaw could take in more than the 2,000 people it had previously announced.

Several media comment on their country’s quota, wondering what the consequences would be for their economies. In the meantime, an extraordinary EU Council could take place on Monday in Brussels, which according to Greek daily To Vima has already been agreed by EU heads of state and governments. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres nevertheless criticises the EU for having been inactive for so long, Ö1 reports. At a joint press conference on Monday, Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also criticised EU member states for not taking in enough refugees, Swedish and German media report, as well as

On the contrary, Karel Du Gucht says in an interview with De Ochtend that he thinks the European Commission and some EU member states made serious efforts concerning the refugee crisis. In a very positive tone, Eric Frey writes in a commentary in Der Standard that the EU will somehow overcome the refugee crisis.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR has said that asylum seekers will continue flooding into Europe at least until late October, when the climate in the Mediterranean region gets colder, El Pais reveals. And European Council President Donald Tusk is of the same opinion: “The present wave of migration is not a one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which only means that we will have to deal with this problem for many years to come,” as quoted by Sabah. The Wall Street Journal Europe and International New York Times both reports that stories and images of migrants pouring into Europe are inspiring people from countries long plagued by war and instability to make their own risky journeys, raising new concerns about yet another wave of refugees.

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