The EU's executive has proposed to take in 20,000 refugees this year and next, distributing them across Europe. The new agenda on migration comes in the wake of thousands of Mediterranean drowning deaths.
Speaking at a news conference held in Brussels on Wednesday to launch the European Commission's agenda on migration, top officials warned that they planned to enforce rules on asylum as border countries struggled to deal with unprecedented numbers of people trying to reach the continent, fleeing conflict or poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
"It is not acceptable for people around the EU to say: 'Yes, stop people dying in the Mediterranean,' and at the same time remain silent when the question is raised: 'What should happen to these people?'" said European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
"The rules are not broken; they are not applied properly, and it is time for us to apply the existing rules properly," he told reporters as the new migration agenda was unveiled.
"The response is finally European," said Federica Mogherini, the EU's head of foreign policy, of the wide-ranging agenda, which includes plans for an EU-wide refugee resettlement scheme of up to 20,000 places, for which the EU would budget an extra 50 million euros ($56 million) for 2015-2016. It also foresees a permanent quota system.
Though the emphasis from the Commission has been on sharing the responsibility for refugees more evenly across all member states and reducing the burden on countries like Italy and Greece, where most migrants arrive, under EU treaty rules the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark would not be obliged to take part.
British Interior Minister Theresa May did not want her country taking part in the quota scheme.
"We cannot do anything which encourages more people to make these perilous journeys - or which makes it easier for the gangs responsible for their misery. That is why the UK will not participate in a mandatory system of resettlement or relocation," May wrote in "The Times" newspaper on Wednesday.
"No country should be left alone to address huge migratory pressures," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on his Twitter account after the proposals were published.
se/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)