The EU plans to send 10,000 more border guards to tackle unlawful immigration by 2020, the European Commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker said in his annual state of the union address.
He said this was not militarising Europe.
He called for more solidarity, rather than “ad-hoc solutions” for people on migrant ships.
His speech also tackled the region’s other burning issues – populism, terrorism and Brexit.
This is Mr Juncker’s last 12 months in the role.
He also proposed a new Africa-Europe alliance, based on co-operation rather than charity, leading to a continent-to-continent free trade agreement.
He recommended that the euro be used more strategically as the biggest currency after the dollar.
And he called for strong leadership on Brexit.
“We also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the Union cannot be in the same privileged position as a Member State,” he said. “If you leave the Union, you are of course no longer part of our single market, and certainly not only in the parts of it you choose.”
From the start of his commission’s mandate in 2014, migration has been a major crisis.
It has sparked a rise in populism that has seen power shifts in Italy, Austria, Hungary and Poland, with Sweden the latest country to register a rise in anti-immigration votes in an election.
Right after his speech, the EU parliament will decide whether to take disciplinary procedures against Hungary for breaching core democratic values.
The commission has already launched disciplinary proceedings against Poland over reforms it says challenge the rule of law.
The next elections to the European parliament are expected to be held in late May next year.