In his annual state of the union address Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for 10,000 more border guards to tackle illegal immigration.
The chief of the the legislative arm of the European Union said in his address in Belgium that personnel in Frontex, the EU’s border protection agency, should be increased from its current level of 1,260 by 2020.
In a wide-ranging speech, Juncker spoke of improving procedures for the return of immigrants whose European asylum applications were rejected. He also called for building reciprocal relationships between the EU and Africa, including a free trade pact.
“We need to invest more in our relationship with the nations of this great and noble continent,” he said. “And we have to stop seeing this relationship through the sole prism of development aid. Such an approach is beyond inadequate, humiliatingly so.
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“Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnerships, and Europe needs this partnership just as much.”
Juncker also expressed frustration with the EC’s policy of allowing a single member state’s dissenting vote to block EU policy, and called for qualified majority voting in specific areas.
“We must improve our ability to speak with one voice when it comes to our foreign policy,” he said. “It is not right that our union silenced itself at the United Nations Human Rights Council when it came to condemning human rights abuses by China, and this because not all member states could agree.”
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The EC chief’s speech noted the rise of populism and far-right governments, and suggested a pan-European view of patriotism. While opinion surveys indicate that more Europeans view the EU favorably, residents are also becoming more sympathetic toward nationalist political parties skeptical of the 28-member union.
To love Europe is to love its nations. To love your nation is to love Europe,” Juncker said. “Patriotism is a virtue. Unchecked nationalism is riddled with both poison and deceit.”