In First State of the Union Address, European Commission President Seeks Unity on Refugee Crisis, Digital Markets

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Europe at night

The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, and the head of the European Commission did that with gusto on Wednesday in a speech to the European Parliament. Speaking in Strasbourg, France, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged member nations to work together in dealing with the growing immigration crisis on the continent, suggesting that an estimated 160,000 refugees be shared among 22 member states.

"The refugee crisis will not simply go away," Juncker told EU lawmakers, noting that some 500,000 migrants have entered Europe this year, many from conflict-torn Syria and Libya. "We are fighting against Islamic State. Why are we not ready to accept those who are fleeing Islamic State?"

The Czech Republic and Slovakia immediately rejected the idea that compulsory quotas might be imposed, while other nations had already criticized the new proposal even before it was made public. Supporters include Germany and France, and while Great Britain is not taking part in the plan, it announced it would welcome up to 20,000 refugees over the next five years.

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Juncker also addressed the financial crisis in Greece and the need to broker peace and economic security in Ukraine. Addressing climate change was also listed as a major challenge. "The planet we share -- its atmosphere and stable climate -- cannot cope with the use mankind is making of it," he said.

Given the urgency of the refugee crisis, it was perhaps not surprising that Juncker spent only a small portion of time discussing economic matters, such as the standardization of the Europe's digital marketplace. He made only two mentions of the hotly debated digital single market and one of the word ”copyright"... and they were made while rattling off economic and business initiatives.

"This is why we are completing the Single Market, slashing red tape, improving the investment climate for small businesses.

This is why we are creating a Digital Single Market -- to make it such that your location in the EU makes no difference to the price you pay when you book a car online. We are modernising the EU's copyright rules -- to increase people's access to cultural content online while ensuring that authors get a fair remuneration. And just two months ago, the EU agreed to abolish roaming charges as of summer 2017, a move many tourists and travellers, notably from Britain, have been calling for, for years."

The EU launched its plan for a digital single market in May. The proposals would unite industries and consumers online across all 28 EU countries. The stated goal of the "digital single market strategy" is to knock down national barriers between European countries by updating copyright laws, harmonizing regulation and licensing, and scrapping barriers to online trade such as geo-blocking, the process by which businesses in one country restrict access to websites or content based in another.