The European Union will introduce stricter controls on its external borders, the head of its executive said on Wednesday, as the bloc looks for ways to assuage widespread concerns among its citizens over immigration and security.
The EU hopes to deploy a new common force – the European Border and Coast Guard – for the first time next month, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said anyone from outside the EU would be registered on entering and leaving.
“We will defend our borders. We will be very strict in terms of who can cross our borders and this is something that we are looking to implement by the end of the year,” he said in his annual policy speech.
EU leaders and officials in Brussels are focusing more on jobs, migration and security to rebuild popular trust in European integration, weakened by an uncontrolled arrival of more than a million refugees and migrants last year, Britain's vote in June to leave the bloc and a sluggish economic recovery.
The Commission proposed in April an “Entry-Exit” system to better track third-country nationals traveling on a visa. Juncker said he would now present a bill to tighten controls on those who do not need visas as well.
He urged the bloc to agree to send 200 more border guards and 50 vehicles from next month to help Bulgaria control its border with Turkey, one of the routes migrants and refugees used last year to get to Europe.
While EU states mostly agree on steps to discourage labor migrants from reaching the EU en masse, they differ on how to treat refugees and are locked in bitter disputes on how to
handle those already there. “Much more solidarity is needed, but … that …must come from the heart,” Juncker said.
The EU agreed to distribute among member states some of the migrants who arrived in Greece and Italy last year, but fewer than 5,000 people have so far been relocated and around 58,000 are still stuck in Greece.