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Politics & Government

European Commission President Calls For Refugee Quota Plan


The President of the European Commission is urging EU countries to show compassion for the asylum-seekers crossing their borders. He's also calling for a quota system to relocate 160,000 of the new arrivals within the 28-member block. His passionate pleas come with threats to impose penalties on countries that don't comply. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: In his speech to the European Parliament, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker reminded Europeans of their own suffering during and after World War II.


JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER: Have we really forgotten 60 million people were refugees in Europe?

NELSON: He implored Europeans not to turn a blind eye to the many people from war-torn countries who are desperate for the same kind of help now.


JUNCKER: Human beings coming from Syria and Libya today could easily be the case in Ukraine tomorrow. Are we making selections? Are we distinguishing between Christians, Jews, Muslims?

NELSON: German chancellor Angela Merkel agrees. Her government has committed to taking in hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.


ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Merkel told the German Parliament today, "we have to stop the blame game and tackle the obstacles standing in our way." But many of her EU partners, especially those to the east, think she's the problem. The critics feel her welcoming tone only encourages more migrants to come.

The Czech Prime Minister today issued a statement criticizing mandatory quotas of asylum-seekers. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have also rejected them. Daniela Schwarzer, who heads the German Marshall Fund's new Europe Program, says the reluctance has to do with a lack of immigration experience.

DANIELA SCHWARZER: They don't have proper integration policies. In many places, they don't have the capacity to actually host people as larger countries who have a long integration and immigration history actually do. So for them, it's a very new issue.

NELSON: But there are signs some of the Eastern countries are softening. For example, Poland now says it might be willing to take in more asylum-seekers than the 2,000 it first agreed to. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.