BERLIN, Oct 24 (Reuters) - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he wanted to get a group of EU leaders to agree on short-term measures to tackle the migrant crisis in the western Balkans at a summit on Sunday.
Concern is growing about hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe, many from war zones in the Middle East, and camping in western Balkan countries in ever colder conditions as winter approaches.
Juncker has summoned EU leaders from the region and Chancellor Angela Merkel from Germany, which is taking in more refugees than any other EU state, for talks on Sunday.
“They will discuss urgently needed, common operative answers to the current humanitarian demands and decide on short-term measures,” Juncker told German newspaper group Funke, which includes the Hamburger Abendblatt.
“We need more cooperation and a closer agreement between the countries in the region to master the situation,” he said.
The situation for migrants deteriorated after Hungary sealed its borders with Serbia and Croatia, leaving many stranded in other overwhelmed states.
Merkel, a driving force behind the Sunday meeting, will argue for distributing migrants within the EU directly from initial registration centres, according to Der Spiegel weekly.
German media have also reported that Juncker will present a 16-point plan at the talks, including an undertaking not to send migrants from one country to another without prior agreement, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
In the interview, Juncker also praised Merkel for focusing on the refugee crisis, which she has described as a bigger challenge for Europe than the Greek debt debacle.
“I very much value the fact that the chancellor has not been driven off her course by opinion polls. Because this is not about short-term popularity but about substance,” he said.
Germany expects at least 800,000 migrants this year, almost 1 percent of its population. Merkel’s popularity has dropped since she threw open the doors to Syrian refugees nearly two months ago.
In her weekly podcast, Merkel said many of those arriving in Germany would have a tough time. “For some of those who come to us, things will go really well. But there will be a proportion who don’t have such a good education and we must make sure that they quickly find work, especially young people.” (Reporting by Madeline Chambers)