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Juncker sees euro, EU trade at risk in unresolved refugee crisis

Friday, January 15, 2016 - 20:14

[BRUSSELS] Europe's bickering over refugees has drained its credibility and ultimately puts continental free trade and the euro at risk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

"We're running the risk of major reputation damage worldwide," Juncker said Friday in a Brussels press conference that dwelt on the cascade of crises - from immigration and Britain's potential exit from the European Union to political small-mindedness - that he said bedevil the EU.

The glut of refugees - with eastern European countries balking at EU laws to house their fair share, and animosity in the wealthier west as well - has triggered the reintroduction of passport checks at some internal borders and threatens to fragment the economy, he said.

"Without the freedom of movement of workers, without the freedom of the citizen to travel, the euro makes no sense," Juncker said. "What's the point of having one currency which you can use across the continent if you can't travel across the continent as we have been able to do up to now?" Generation of Giants Juncker, 61, recently called a united Europe "the love of my life" and, as Luxembourg's prime minister, was a key figure in both the setup of the euro in the 1990s and its defense after the debt crisis hit in 2010.

"A certain number of member states" are frustrating the EU- wide relocation of refugees, he said in a thinly veiled jab at Hungary and neighbors in the east.

Juncker parceled out criticisms toward the north, west and south as well. There was an implicit rebuke of Germany for shunning EU-wide bank deposit insurance and an explicit one of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi for finding fault with most projects originating in Brussels.

Today's European leaders "stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us," he said. "But my generation isn't a generation of giants. We're a generation of weak heirs who forget quickly."

BLOOMBERG