EU has only two months to tackle migration crisis
STRASBOURG (France) - The EU has just two months to tackle its migration crisis before a new spike in numbers this spring, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency, said Wednesday.
"Let me be clear: the current numbers aren't sustainable. We are running out of time. We need a sharp reduction in the coming six to eight weeks," Rutte told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
"When spring comes you might see a spike again in the numbers so we have to tackle this before then," Rutte added.
His comments came a day after EU President Donald Tusk made a similar warning about the pressure of time, noting "worrying" figures that more than 2,000 people a day were coming to Europe over the Christmas period.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference in Strasbourg that a summit of EU leaders in February, likely to be dominated by Britain's reform demands, should have extra time added on to discuss the migration crisis.
In 2015, more than one million refugees and migrants made the perilous journey to Europe -- half of them Syrians fleeing a civil war that has been raging for nearly five years.
The influx has imposed huge strains on the 28-nation European Union, threatening the passport-free Schengen zone as countries restore border checks, and causing tensions over which countries should take in asylum seekers.
Rutte said that during the six-month Dutch EU presidency he wants to ensure that a deal with Turkey on curbing migrant numbers is rapidly put into place, while work should start with Lebanon and Jordan so that refugees are well treated.
Plans for a new EU border and coastguard force will also be pushed through in the first half of 2016, he said.