The agreement came about, in part, to answer a question posed by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic that the 28-nation bloc and non-EU nations like Serbia have been unable to answer since the migratory trek across the Mediterranean and through Turkey started last spring: "What we are going to do with hundreds of thousands of these people?"
Half a year later, there is no answer. Sunday's meeting came up with some solutions none of which fully addressed the issues at stake.
"The only way to restore order to this situation is to slow down the uncontrolled flow of these people," Juncker said.
Many say the EU needs to get control of the refugee flow at the bloc's external border between EU-member Greece and Turkey. Migration experts, however, say the flood of refugees won't be halted until the world resolves the war in Syria, which is driving millions out of the country.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic asked of fellow EU nation Greece: "Why doesn't Greece control its maritime half with Turkey?"
Greece, criticized for being ill-prepared as a first EU buffer against the flow of people, decried the lack of EU solidarity.
"Till today, it was difficult to find a solution, because a series of countries adopt a stance `Not in my backyard,"' Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, so often the target for building border fences that diverted the flow of refugees to other nations, simply said "Hungary is not on the route anymore, so we are just observers here." Then he lashed into measures other EU nations had already taken, especially those belonging to the Schengen passport-free border zone.
"The no. 1 source of the crisis is that members of the European Union, and especially those who are members of Schengen treaty, are not able, or are not ready to keep their word," Orban declared.
As the leaders convened, those out in the field begged them to act quickly and more decisively.
At Slovenia's overwhelmed Brezice refugee camp near the border with Croatia, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency urged leaders to come up with a system to register and screen newcomers when they first enter Europe, rather than in piecemeal attempts at borders along the way.
"But also very important is to help Syria's neighboring countries, where there are around 4 million refugees," said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch. "These people don't need to take these risky journeys if there are legal pathways to come to Europe."
Refugees now mainly travel across the water from Turkey to Greece, and then north to Macedonia and Serbia before entering Croatia and moving on to Slovenia and Austria. Most are aiming to get to Germany or Scandinavia.
In a reminder of the dangers, Greece's coast guard said a woman and two young children drowned and seven other people were missing after their boat smashed into rocks on the island of Lesbos amid turbulent seas. Fifty-three others were rescued.
The number of people on the move across Europe was still in the tens of thousands.
Mahmoud Awad, a UNHCR field protection officer, said about 1,000 people passed through Serbia's border town of Berkasovo and into Croatia overnight from Saturday to Sunday. In the Austrian border town of Spielfeld, 2,500 people spent the night in tents and 7,000 more were expected Sunday from Slovenia, the dpa news agency reported. In Germany's southernmost state of Bavaria, the flow of asylum-seekers from Austria was steady at 3,000 to 6,000 people per day.
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