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Juncker thanks country for migrant crisis role

Mr Fitto responded on Twitter to Mr Juncker's gratitude toward Italy for the role played by its institutions in managing the migrant crisis.

He wrote: "With #migrants #Italy saved Europe's honour? Juncker's words are a confession of EU's blame."

European Commission president Juncker thanked the Southern European country for playing a major role as first responders during the migrant crisis.

 

During his State of the Union speech, Mr Juncker said: "In the summer months, the Commission worked in harmony with the Prime Minister, my dear friend Paolo Gentiloni, and his Government. "We did it and continue to do it because, in the Mediterranean, Italy is saving the honour of Europe.

"I can't talk about migration without a heartfelt homage to Italy for its perseverance and its generosity."

Despite the appreciation from Mr Juncker, resentment against the EU in Italy exploded over the summer.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni blasted Brussels for failing to offer the necessary support to help Italy handle the migrant crisis.

He said: "There needs to be a larger European effort.It needs to intervene to help manage the migrant emergency to support Italy."

Over the past six years, Italy welcomed 181,436 in 2016 alone.

Italian Socialist & Democrats leader Gianni Pittella thanked Mr Juncker for his homage but said the EU needs to do more.

He said: "We need to have a proper cohesion policy."

In 2017, Italy welcomed nearly 100,000 migrant on its coasts in Sicily and Apulia.

In January Italy signed a new treaty with Libya in an attempt to reduce the number of arrivals.

''Nel Mediterraneo l'Italia salva l'onore dell'Europa''

Immigrazione, Juncker: ''Nel Mediterraneo l'Italia salva l'onore dell'Europa''

Il presidente della Commissione Ue, Jean-Claude Juncker, durante il suo discorso sullo stato dell'Unione a Strasburgo ha riservato un tributo speciale all'Italia per la gestione dei migranti nel Mediterraneo centrale. L'immigrazione è una delle cinque priorità dell'azione europea illustrate da Juncker che ha voluto rendere "omaggio all'Italia per la sua perseveranza e disponibilità".

Juncker calls for radical overhaul of EU immigration policies

 

“I don’t want to get despondent, but Europe is not in good shape,” Juncker said, concentrating his first and lengthy ‘state of the union’ speech on the EU’s biggest postwar migration emergency.

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Accusing national governments reluctant to take in refugees of historical amnesia, he listed Europe’s long record of helping refugees fleeing and persecution, from the Huguenots in 17th-century France to the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, to emphasise that the Geneva conventions established in 1951 to regulate refugee treatment were aimed at helping Europeans crushed in the fallout of the second world war.Today it is Europe that is sought as a place of refuge and exile. It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear.” 160,000 refugees currently in Italy, Greece and Hungary. This had to be on a binding and not a voluntary basis. “It has to be done and it will be done,” he said.

Juncker confirmed that Brussels was asking national governments to agree to, and he proposed a permanent new system of sharing refugees in case of crisis. He also called for the creation of a European force of border and coastguards to patrol and police the external frontiers of the passport-free Schengen travel zone embracing 26 countries.

Juncker announced that the commission was drafting policies on how to open up legal channels to allow people seeking to get to Europe by highly hazardous routes to do so much more safely. “We have the means to help those fleeing from war, terror and oppression,” he said. “Migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well managed resource.”

The blueprint unveiled by Juncker sets the scene for a potentially ugly confrontation on Monday in Brussels, when interior ministers from the 28 countries meet to discuss the compulsory refugee quotas demanded by the EU and supported strongly by Germany, France and Italy but vehemently rejected by the younger EU members of central Europe. They remain intensely reluctant to bow to a system of imposed quotas.

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Juncker pointedly remarked that today’s wave of immigration from the Middle East and Africa could be tomorrow’s influx from a war-ravaged Ukraine, the message being that the eastern Europeans on the frontline would then demand help from western Europe.

The east Europeans responded robustly to Juncker’s demands. The Slovak prime minister, Robert Fico, dismissed the quotas as a non-starter. “We won’t bow down to Germany and France,” he said. “Quotas are irrational.”

The Czech Republic’s Europe minister, Tomas Prouza, described the quotas idea as “nonsensical.”

Beata Szydlo, on Poland’s nationalist right and tipped to become prime minister following elections next month, complained that Warsaw was under pressure from Brussels to accede to a new quotas system. “The Polish government should definitely not yield to this pressure,” she said.

In Berlin, Angela Merkel offered vocal support for Juncker, arguing that the commission proposals did not go far enough. “Generally we need a binding agreement on a binding distribution of refugees between all member states based on fair criteria,” the German chancellor told the Bundestag.

Juncker’s figure of 160,000 was only a first step, she added. Receiving refugees was a European responsibility, but there was no point in putting a ceiling on the numbers to be shared.

Germany and others receiving the lion’s share of refugees are warning that national border controls within the Schengen area could be re-established if countries continue to veto equitable sharing of the new arrivals.

Juncker stressed that the Schengen zone would not be sacrificed while he remained in charge of the commission. Speaking of “common” and “united” refugee and asylum policies, he said they had to “be permanently anchored in our policy approach and our rules”.

“We will propose ambitious steps towards a European border and coastguard before the end of the year,” he said. “The commission will come forward with a well-designed legal migration package in early 2016.”

The proposed overhaul aimed at establishing a new uniform EU asylum and refugee regime, which will be extremely difficult to achieve given national sensitivities and the prominence of immigration issues in national politics across Europe, is unlikely to affect Britain.

The UK is not part of the Schengen zone and will be unaffected by a common European border guard system. It also enjoys special status allowing it to choose whether to take part in common asylum policies and has already declared it will have no part of any refugee-sharing quotas system.

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However a cross-party group of 14 British MEPs have written a letter to David Cameron urging him to listen to the views of European experts on the issue of relocation and to take part in Juncker’s proposed scheme.

The Liberal Democrats’ only MEP, Catherine Bearder, said the UK’s European partners were exasperated by the UK prime minister’s “stubborn refusal to take part in a collective European response to this crisis”.

“By refusing to take a single refugee that has arrived on Europe’s shores, the UK government is shirking our international duty and lowering Britain’s standing in the world,” she said. “Of course we must do more to tackle the causes of the refugee crisis at source, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the human tragedy unfolding right now on our continent.”

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s leader in the European parliament, said: “The prime minister should be leading efforts for a common EU plan for relocation and resettlement of refugees – not acting in isolation, weeks after Germany and other countries have taken the lead.”

A spokeswoman for Cameron said Juncker’s speech covered “the importance of a fair deal for Britain”.

“The point I’d make is that the UK is already playing its part and – in terms of a financial contribution to tackling the refugee crisis from Syria – we are the leading donor nation on that,” she said.

“In terms of any relocation, we have already been clear on our position, which is that we are not bound by it and we are going to focus our efforts on resettlement.”

The biggest speech of Juncker’s 10 months as head of the commission came close on the heels of family bereavement. His mother died last Sunday, since when his father has been taken into hospital.

In a plea for European generosity towards the 500,000 he said had entered the EU this year, Juncker said: “Europe is the baker in Kos who gives away his bread to hungry and weary souls. Europe is the students in Munich and in Passau who bring clothes for the new arrivals at the train station. Europe is the policeman in Austria who welcomes exhausted refugees upon crossing the border. This is the Europe I want to live in.”

Cutting legal immigration might be Trump’s worst idea

Thomas Simons, senior economist at the Jefferies investment firm, called the idea “absolutely harmful to an economy with a population undergoing the demographic transformation.”

The bottom line is: The United States needs more workers. Growth happens when one of two things occurs: The economy gets more workers or the existing workers become more productive. At the moment, both of those factors are red flags. Productivity growth is sluggish, and, as Trump has pointed out many times, the percent of American adults who actually work — the labor-force participation rate — is hovering at the lowest levels since the 1970s.

A big part of the problem is the baby boomers are starting to retire. The United States needs more people to replace them, but the U.S. birthrate just hit a historic low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why many economists, demographers and business owners keep calling for more immigration, not less.

“Limiting immigration to the U.S. is a grave mistake,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “The only way to meaningfully increase U.S. economic growth on a sustained basis anytime soon is to increase immigration.”

During the campaign, Zandi predicted that Trump's protectionist stances on trade and immigration would lead to a “lengthy recession.” According to Zandi's economic models, Trump's worst policy was his plan to deport 11 million immigrants currently in the country illegally.

Now scaling back on legal immigration is a serious part of the policy discussion.

Congress and the White House are dealing with a slew of issues. Immigration appeared to be sidelined until a much-cited Politico report last week that top Trump aides are actively working with Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) to cut legal immigration by as much as 50 percent. It would be a revised version of the RAISE Act that the senators introduced in February and that would cut back on the number of refugees allowed in each year and make it much harder for anyone other than spouses or minor children of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to immigrate. Trump has called for a re-examination of the visa process that allows skilled workers to work in the U.S. Here's why the skilled worker visa program is so controversial. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

There's little love among economists and business leaders for a 50 percent cut in immigration overall, but there is growing support for moving the United States to a more merit-based immigration system. The idea is to attract more of the immigrant workers that the country desperately needs. At the moment, only 15 percent of green cards are issued for employment reasons, according to Department of Homeland Security data.

“There is a case for adopting a Canada-style system of 'points' whereby preference is given to people with desired skills,” said Martin Barnes, chief economist at BCA Research in Montreal.

The vast majority of legal immigrants are entering the country because they are relatives of someone already in the United States. It's known as “chain immigration,” and the RAISE Act wants to limit that substantially so only spouses and children could come with a visa holder, not more-extended relatives.

Take Bayard Winthrop. He is founder and chief executive of American Giant, a company that Slate said produces the “greatest hoodie ever made.” American Giant makes those masterpiece sweatshirts by using only U.S. workers, U.S. cotton and U.S. manufacturing. In other words, Winthrop is the living embodiment of the “Made in America” a movement Trump is trying to resurrect. Yet one of the biggest problems Winthrop faces is not enough American workers want to do the hard work of picking cotton.

“If you go through our supply chain and talk to a lot of the business that are ginning cotton, dyeing and finishing cotton, what you hear pretty universally is they have open job requests but few people actually want these entry-level, lower-wage jobs,” he said Monday in an interview with WAMU radio. His message to Trump is, “Make immigration much more accessible.”

Trump still sees action on immigration as a critical part of his agenda. He brought it up on his trip to France last week.

“What I'd like to do is a comprehensive immigration plan,” the president told reporters on his way to Paris. “But our country and political forces are not ready yet.”

If Trump can't get the bigger immigration overhaul he wants, he's likely to push for something like the RAISE Act. Trump says the United States needs to limit immigration, legal and illegal, to give workers at home a better chance. One of the proposals Cotton and Perdue are considering is slashing the number of legally issued green cards from 1 million a year to 500,000 over the next decade.

Trump portrays immigrants as scooping up American jobs. But the data appears to tell a different story.

U.S. unemployment is at 4.4 percent. In May, unemployment hit the lowest level since 2001, a milestone Trump celebrated. That implies there aren't many people struggling to find work. At the same time, the United States has 5.7 million job openings, which is near a record high. It's been that way for a year now. Business leaders with big and small firms say they can't find enough workers. They are especially vocal about not being able to find enough people for really low-skilled, low-pay work and for really highly skilled jobs. is already heeding the calls for more lower-skilled workers. His administration just bumped up visas for seasonal foreign workers by 15,000, a 45 percent increase from last year. an economics standpoint, the key is to get more workers with the desired skills into the country. It's why the tech community is lobbying so hard for more H-1B visas. also tend to start more businesses. While start-up founders in Silicon Valley are glorified, the reality is, business formation in the United States is near a 40-year low. That worries Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust.

“Countries that get collectively older are granted fewer patents, start fewer small businesses and take fewer risks with capital,” Tannenbaum said. All of that hurts economic growth.

Tannenbaum is concerned not only that Trump will cut immigration in the future but also that the president's anti-immigrant rhetoric and controversial travel ban are already encouraging the best young minds in the world to look elsewhere for their college educations and early careers.

“If smart kids get educated elsewhere, the U.S. will experience a talent drain that we will certainly come to regret,” Tannenbaum warned.

EU 'Italy is not alone' in tackling migration crisis'

EU interior ministers on Thursday pledged to back an urgent European Commission plan to help crisis-hit Italy, which has been overwhelmed by a wave of migrants arriving by sea from North Africa.

Ministers from across the bloc gathered in the Estonian capital Tallinn after Italy, which has accepted around 85,000 of the 100,000 people who have arrived this year, appealed desperately for help.

At the close of the talks, ministers issued a rare written statement, saying: "The situation in the Central Mediterranean and the resulting pressure on Italy is of great concern to all member states."

The move was hailed by Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti.

"There has been a recognition of the question raised by Italy," he said of the talks that were chaired by Estonia, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.


"Italy is not alone and will not have to act on its own," Estonian Interior Minister Andres Anvelt told reporters after the meeting.

In recent weeks, Italy has stepped up calls for help, pleading with its European partners to make a "concrete contribution" by opening their ports to rescue ships to share the burden.

At the end of June, Italy threatened to stop vessels from other countries disembarking rescued migrants at its ports.

The influx has exacerbated tensions with neighbouring Austria, which this week threatened to send troops to its border with Italy to stop migrants entering.

Central to Thursday's talks was a European Commission plan which earmarks 35 million euros ($40 million) in aid for Rome as well as proposals for working with Libya and other countries to stem the flow of migrants.

'Plan of action'

While no new measures were adopted at the meeting, ministers expressed support for a "plan of action" presented Tuesday by the European Commission which puts in place, "better and more quickly", certain elements previously agreed upon, according to a European source.

They include a joint rescue coordination centre which would improve rescue efforts with Libya's coastguard and offer it better training and equipment. It also includes a plan to help Libya strengthen control over its porous southern border while working with Egypt, Niger, Ethiopia and Sudan to improve the repatriation process for migrants who don't meet the criteria for international protection.

However, an analysis by the Eurasia Group think tank said the EU's response would likely be "timid" with the new measures expected to only "marginally stem the migrant flow".

Under the EU's asylum policy, asylum seekers are supposed to be processed in the country where they first arrive. Ministers also hailed a proposed "code of conduct" to regulate non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on rescue missions patrolling off the coast of Libya.

Despite their humanitarian mission, aid groups have come under fire with some critics saying their presence encourages migrants to attempt the crossing.

But the groups say not acting would risk lives, with smugglers putting migrants out to sea in unseaworthy vessels with little fuel or water.

"We have no problem with NGOs," European Union Commissioner for Refugees Dimitris Avramopoulos said. "The idea is to better our working relationship using more coordinated efforts".

Most of those landing in Italy are sub-Saharan Africans who have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya, a journey that has so far claimed more than 2,200 lives this year, UN figures show.

Government data released Thursday also show that Italy has received 73,000 asylum applications since the start of the year - an increase of 46 percent from the first six months of 2016.

'Mission bankruptcy'

In Rome, top diplomats from the EU and Africa met officials from the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Thursday over the ongoing crisis.

The talks grouped foreign ministers from Libya, Niger, Tunisia, Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan with their counterparts from Germany, Austria, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Malta and Estonia.

"In order to lower the number of people arriving here, we must reduce the number arriving in Libya," Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said after the talks.

"If border controls in transit countries are effective, then the 'tickets' sold by the biggest criminal travel agency in history would lose their value.

"If the traffickers can't guarantee an arrival in Europe, their travel agency would go bankrupt," he said. "That is our mission."

The ministers ended with a call for investment to help young people and women in their countries of origin, as well as supporting beefed-up border controls in such countries.

They also agreed to help the UN refugee agency and the IOM increase their presence along the migrant trail and develop communication strategies to warn would-be migrants about the dangers of the journey.