European Parliament conference sends strong migration policy message to Council

The European Parliament and the European Commission presented a united front on Wednesday sending a strong message on the need to turn words into action where migration policy is concerned ahead of the European Summit of the heads of state and government taking place on Thursday and Friday, in Brussels.

Addressing a high level conference on migration management, which was hosted at the European Parliament on his initiative, with the participation of over 700 people, including Commissioners, MEPs, MPs, local actors, agencies dealing with migration issues, NGOs and journalists, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani pointed out the need to bring European citizens closer to European institutions, adding that in order to do so, we have to make sure that the voice of the European Parliament is heard loud and clear.

He sent a message to the European Council that we must not waste any more time. We have to act and with great determination. He acknowledged that the situation with migration management is not a straightforward one but stressed that according to the Eurobarometer citizens want the EU institutions to tackle it.

Tajani warned against the populous sirens which might make themselves heard riding on the wave of fear.

We cannot disappoint so many Europeans we must come up with solutions, he stressed.

According to the European Parliament’s President the next EU budget will have to include policy priorities on migration. Migration, he said, is a political problem that European institutions have to face head on.

Referring to the Commission’s recent launch of infringement proceedings against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland he said that one has to honour agreements and pointed out that solidarity is not only about receiving it but also about giving it.

Closing borders would not provide solutions, Tajani noted, adding that it would be a serious mistake to close our borders. At the same time, he advocated in favour of having a strategy for Africa, adding that it should be one of the priorities in the coming years.

On his part Jean Claude Juncker spoke of what has been achieved so far and referred in particular to the establishment of the European border and coast guard, adding that 997 have been are serving in Greece, 442 in Italy, 168 in Bulgaria and 65 in Spain.

We are going to leave no country behind when there are people in need, he assured.

At the same time, he expressed his appreciation of the work done by Italy and Greece. We cannot and we will not leave these two countries on their own devices, he stressed.

Juncker also warned that solidarity is not a one-way street, adding that every country must take its fair share of responsibility.

Replying to a question later on the infringement procedure launched recently at a press conference he clarified that I am not waging war against these countries. I am not aggressive. I am simply applying laws.

He expressed the view that we need to invest on the ground to make sure that Africa can stand up and be counted when it comes to realising its own ambitions.

Am I satisfied with what has been done? Yes and no, because there is still such a great deal that needs to be done but we need to do it together, he concluded.

Addressing the conference on her part, head of the European Diplomacy Federica Mogherini recalled that one day before she took office she was in the island of Lampedusa paying homage to the victims of yet another human tragedy.

And I have been very much ashamed with the European Union and the way we closed our eyes to the people crossing the Mediterranean, she said. Ashamed, she added, of the deaths the EU pretended not to see for so many years.

She acknowledged that there is still a great deal to be done particularly on the part of European solidarity. That, Mogherini pointed out, is a political struggle we have to undertake. However, she also highlighted the fact that migration is a global phenomenon which requires coordinated action.

To that effect she spoke of the work done in the Niger, and Libya in cooperation with those countries but also with UNCHR trying to save lives.

Mogherini stressed that we have to remove the causes driving people to flee. This, she added, will entail very large-scale investment in economic and social development, human rights and democracy.

Addressing a working group on how to better manage migration in the context of the conference European Commissioner on Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed that “we dont want a Europe – fortress”. We want, he noted, “Europe to remain open, tolerant and secure.”

This he pointed out, “means that we must manage more effectively migration and mobility and not just were people in need of protection is concerned.”

Avramopoulos spoke in favour of attracting migrants with skills but highlighted the need to deal with illegal migration and to improve on the rate of returns for those who do not have a right to remain in the EU.

Eurobarometer findings from 2016 which were included in the data provided in the conference show that the large majority of European citizens are in favour of a common European Policy on Migration (EU average 69%, Cyprus 73%), wish for more decision making at EU level on the migration issue (EU average 66%, Cyprus 81%), believe that simplifying the legal migration procedures would make it possible to fight effectively against illegal migration (EU average 66%, Cyprus 77%), that the number of asylum seekers should be better distributed among all EU member states (EU average 78%, Cyprus 88%), the majority of those agreeing that this should be decided at EU level on the basis of binding quotas (EU average 75%, Cyprus 70%).

Source: Cyprus News Agency