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A comprehensive long-term approach on migration and asylum policies, in cooperation with third countries, as well as immediate delivery on agreed urgent measures, must take centre stage at Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders, said MEPs in a debate with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Luxembourg's presidency representative Nicolas Schmit on Wednesday.

Unlike some MEPs, Mr Juncker argued that Turkey, as a candidate EU member state, should be considered a “safe” third country. "Otherwise we could stop accession negotiations altogether!" he said.

Member states must tackle the refugee crisis with funds, not words

"It's not enough to promise, it’s deeds that count!" said Mr Juncker, echoed by most political group speakers who criticised member states for failing so far to deliver money pledged in the 23 September European Council decisions, and their slowness to increase staff at EU agencies dealing with migration.

Mr Juncker and several MEPs urged the media to “stop blaming Brussels” for the EU’s lacklustre response to the refugee crisis. The real problem was national egoism, they said.

Besides managing and distributing migrants and refugees and setting up swift “return” mechanisms, MEPs outlined the need for a broad policy approach, including better protection of the EU’s external borders, close cooperation with third countries and in particular Turkey, and addressing the roots and conflicts triggering migration flows.

Planned UK referendum process


"It takes two to tango", said Mr Juncker, referring to the progress of negotiations on reforms requested by the British government. UK MEPs expressed diverging views on whether these reforms would benefit Britain, the EU as a whole, or both. EU leaders are to take stock of this progress at a working lunch on Thursday.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz will address the European Council on Thursday, at 16.00, followed by a press conference.