Juncker warns EU of 'humanitarian disaster' in Idlib

EU's top policy maker calls for EU unity to counter nationalism, reveals a new EU-Africa partnership in speech

Juncker warns EU of 'humanitarian disaster' in Idlib

Europe must remain tolerant to avoid atrocities such as the "impending humanitarian disaster" in Syria's Idlib province, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday.

Delivering his final State of the Union speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker said, "Europe must remain a tolerant continent... it will never become a fortress, turning its back on the world."

"Take a look around. What is happening in Idlib in Syria now must be of deep and direct concern to us all. We cannot remain silent in face of this impending humanitarian disaster -- which appears now all but inevitable," he said, adding:

"The conflict in Syria is a case in point for how the international order that served Europeans so well after the Second World War is being increasingly called into question."

Addressing the Balkan EU accession issue, Juncker said the EU still needs a "forthright attitude" noting that EU enlargement is and remains a "success story".

"We must find unity when it comes to the Western Balkans... Should we not, our immediate neighborhood will be shaped by others."

The Luxembourg politician told MEPs that the EU must respond to the "many", not the "few".

Juncker said EU member states must remove any borders they have thrown up during migration crisis.

He also revealed a new EU alliance with Africa that could create 10 million jobs in Africa in the next five years.

He said Europe should "stop seeing the African-EU relationship from the sole prism of development aid."

He added that "such an approach is humiliating for Africa. Africa does not need charity, it needs a true and balanced partnership and Europe needs this just as much."

As for Brexit, Juncker said the EU "respects the British decision to leave our union, even though we continue to regret it deeply. But we also ask the British government to understand someone who leaves the union cannot be of the same privileged position."

"If you leave the Union, you of course, are no longer a part of our single market. And certainly no longer just parts of it."

Juncker called the EU members "to say No to unhealthy nationalism and Yes to patriotism," saying, "unchecked nationalism is riddled with poison and deceit".