Wednesday, 23/5/2018 | 4:51 UTC+0
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  • President Jean-Claude Juncker's State of the Union Address 2017

    1

    INTRODUCTION – WIND IN OUR SAILS

    Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

    When I stood before you this time last year, I had a somewhat easier speech to give.

    It was plain for all to see that our Union was not in a good state.

    Europe was battered and bruised by a year that shook our very foundation.

    We only had two choices. Either come together around a positive European agenda or each retreat into our own corners.

    Faced with this choice, I argued for unity.

    I proposed a positive agenda to help create – as I said last year – a Europe that protects, empowers and defends.

    Over the past twelve months, the European Parliament has helped bring this agenda to life. We continue to make progress with each passing day. Just last night you worked to find agreement on trade defence instruments and on doubling our European investment capacity.

    I also want to thank the 27 leaders of our Member States. Days after my speech last year, they welcomed my agenda at their summit in Bratislava. In doing so they chose unity. They chose to rally around our common ground.

    Together, we showed that Europe can deliver for its citizens when and where it matters.

    Ever since, we have been slowly but surely gathering momentum.

    It helped that the economic outlook swung in our favour.

    We are now in the fifth year of an economic recovery that finally reaches every single Member State.

    Growth in the European Union has outstripped that of the United States over the last two years. It now stands above 2% for the Union as a whole and at 2.2% for the euro area.

    Unemployment is at a nine year low. Almost 8 million jobs have been created during this mandate so far. With 235 million people at work, more people are in employment in the EU than ever before.

    The European Commission cannot take the credit for this alone. Though I am sure that had 8 million jobs been lost, we would have taken the blame.

    But Europe’s institutions played their part in helping the wind change.

    We can take credit for our European Investment Plan which has triggered €225 billion worth of investment so far. It has granted loans to over 445,000 small firms and more than 270 infrastructure projects.

    We can take credit for the fact that, thanks to determined action, European banks once again have the capital firepower to lend to companies so that they can grow and create jobs.

    And we can take credit for having brought public deficits down from 6.6% to 1.6%. This is thanks to an intelligent application of the Stability and Growth Pact. We ask for fiscal discipline but are careful not to kill growth. This is in fact working very well across the Union – despite the criticism.

    Ten years since crisis struck, Europe’s economy is finally bouncing back.

    And with it, our confidence.

    Our EU27 leaders, the Parliament and the Commission are putting the Europe back in our Union. Together we are putting the Union back in our Union.

    In the last year, we saw all 27 leaders walk up the Capitoline Hill in Rome, one by one, to renew their vows to each other and to our Union.

    All of this leads me to believe: the wind is back in Europe’s sails.

    We now have a window of opportunity but it will not stay open forever.

    Let us make the most of the momentum, catch the wind in our sails.

    For this we must do two things:

    First, we should stay the course set out last year. We have still 16 months in which real progress can be made by Parliament, Council and Commission. We must use this time to finish what we started in Bratislava and deliver on our positive agenda.

    Secondly, we should chart the direction for the future. As Mark Twain wrote, years from now we will be more disappointed by the things we did not do, than by the ones we did. Now is the time to build a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe for 2025.

     

    STAYING COURSE

    Mr President, Honourable Members,

    As we look to the future, we cannot let ourselves be blown off course.

    We set out to complete an Energy Union, a Security Union, a Capital Markets Union, a Banking Union and a Digital Single Market. Together, we have already come a long way.

    As the Parliament testified, 80% of the proposals promised at the start of the mandate have already been put forward by the Commission. We must now work together to turn proposals into law, and law into practice.

    As ever, there will be a degree of give and take. The Commission’s proposals to reform our Common Asylum System and strengthen rules on the Posting of Workers have caused controversy. Achieving a good result will need all sides to move towards each other. I want to say today: as long as the outcome is the right one for our Union and is fair to all Member States, the Commission will be open to compromise

    We are now ready to put the remaining 20% of initiatives on the table by May 2018.

    This morning, I sent a Letter of Intent to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas outlining the priorities for the year ahead.

    I will not list all our proposals here, but let me mention five which are particularly important.

    Firstly, I want us to strengthen our European trade agenda.

    Yes, Europe is open for business. But there must be reciprocity. We have to get what we give.

    Trade is not something abstract. Trade is about jobs, creating new opportunities for Europe’s businesses big and small. Every additional €1 billion in exports supports 14,000 extra jobs in Europe.

    Trade is about exporting our standards, be they social or environmental standards, data protection or food safety requirements.

    Europe has always been an attractive place to do business.

    But over the last year, partners across the globe are lining up at our door to conclude trade agreements with us.

    With the help of the European Parliament, we have just secured a trade agreement with Canada that will provisionally apply as of next week. We have a political agreement with Japan on a new economic partnership. By the end of the year, we have a good chance of doing the same with Mexico and South American countries.

    And today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand.

    I want all of these agreements to be finalised by the end of this mandate. And I want them negotiated in the fullest transparency.

    Open trade must go hand in hand with open policy making.

    The European Parliament will have the final say on all trade agreements. So its Members, like members of national and regional parliaments, must be kept fully informed from day one of the negotiations. The Commission will make sure of this.

    From now on, the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates we propose to the Council.

    Citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency. Gone are the days of rumours, of incessantly questioning the Commission’s motives.

    I call on the Council to do the same when it adopts the final negotiating mandates.

    Let me say once and for all: we are not naïve free traders.

    Europe must always defend its strategic interests.

    This is why today we are proposing a new EU framework for investment screening. If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed.

     

    Secondly, I want to make our industry stronger and more competitive.

    This is particularly true for our manufacturing base and the 32 million workers that form its backbone. They make the world-class products that give us our edge, like our cars.

    I am proud of our car industry. But I am shocked when consumers are knowingly and deliberately misled. I call on the car industry to come clean and make it right. Instead of looking for loopholes, they should be investing in the clean cars of the future.

    The newIndustrial Policy Strategy we are presenting today will help our industries stay or become the world leader in innovation, digitisation and decarbonisation.

    Third: I want Europe to be the leader when it comes to the fight against climate change.

    Last year, we set the global rules of the game with the Paris Agreement ratified here, in this very House. Set against the collapse of ambition in the United States, Europe will ensure we make our planet great again. It is the shared heritage of all of humanity.

    The Commission will shortly present proposals to reduce the carbon emissions of our transport sector.

     

    Fourth priority for the year ahead: we need to better protect Europeans in the digital age.

    In the past three years, we have made progress in keeping Europeans safe online. New rules, put forward by the Commission, will protect our intellectual property, our cultural diversity and our personal data. We have stepped up the fight against terrorist propaganda and radicalisation online. But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks.

    Cyber-attacks can be more dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies than guns and tanks. Last year alone there were more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day and 80% of European companies experienced at least one cyber-security incident.

    Cyber-attacks know no borders and no one is immune. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.

    Fifth: migration will stay on our radar.

    In spite of the debate and controversy around this topic, we have managed to make solid progress – though admittedly insufficient in many areas.

    We are now protecting Europe’s external borders more effectively. Over 1,700 officers from the new European Border and Coast Guard are now helping Member States’ 100,000 national border guards patrol in places like Greece, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain. We have common borders but Member States that by geography are the first in line cannot be left alone to protect them. Common borders and common protection must go hand in hand.

    We have managed to stem irregular flows of migrants, which were a cause of great anxiety for many. We have reduced irregular arrivals in the Eastern Mediterranean by 97% thanks our agreement with Turkey. And this summer, we managed to get more control over the Central Mediterranean route with arrivals in August down by 81% compared to the same month last year.

    In doing so, we have drastically reduced the loss of life in the Mediterranean. Tragically, nearly 2,500 died this year. I will never accept that people are left to die at sea.

    I cannot talk about migration without paying strong tribute to Italy for their tireless and noble work. This summer, the Commission again worked closely together with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and his government to improve the situation, notably by training the Libyan Coast Guard. We will continue to offer strong operational and financial support to Italy. Because Italy is saving Europe’s honour in the Mediterranean.

    We must also urgently improve migrants’ living conditions in Libya. I am appalled by the inhumane conditions in detention or reception centres. Europe has a collective responsibility, and the Commission will work in concert with the United Nations to put an end to this scandalous situation that cannot be made to last.

    Even if it saddens me to see that solidarity is not yet equally shared across all our Member States, Europe as a whole has continued to show solidarity. Last year alone, our Member States resettled or granted asylum to over 720,000 refugees – three times as much as the United States, Canada and Australia combined. Europe, contrary to what some say, is not a fortress and must never become one. Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity where those fleeing persecution can find refuge.

    I am particularly proud of the young Europeans volunteering to give language courses to Syrian refugees or the thousands more young people who are serving in our new European Solidarity Corps. They are bringing European solidarity to life.

    We now need to redouble our efforts. Before the end of the month, the Commission will present a new set of proposals with an emphasis on returns, solidarity with Africa and opening legal pathways.

    When it comes to returns: people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin. When only 36% of irregular migrants are returned, it is clear we need to significantly step up our work. This is the only way Europe will be able to show solidarity with refugees in real need of protection.

    Solidarity cannot be exclusively intra-European. We must also showsolidarity withAfrica. Africa is a noble and young continent, the cradle of humanity. Our €2.7 billion EU-Africa Trust Fund is creating employment opportunities across the continent. The EU budget fronted the bulk of the money, but all our Member States combined have still only contributed €150 million. The Fund is currently reaching its limits. We know the dangers of a lack of funding – in 2015 many migrants headed towards Europe when the UN’s World Food Programme ran out of funds. I call on all Member States to now match their actions with their words and ensure the Africa Trust Fund does not meet the same fate.

    We will also work on opening up legal pathways. Irregular migration will only stop if there is a real alternative to perilous journeys. We are close to having resettled 22,000 refugees from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and I support UN High Commissioner Grandi’s call to resettle a further 40,000 refugees from Libya and the surrounding countries.

    At the same time, legal migration is a necessity for Europe as an ageing continent. This is why the Commission made proposals to make it easier for skilled migrants to reach Europe with a Blue Card. I would like to thank the Parliament for your support and I call for an ambitious and swift agreement on this important issue.

    SETTING SAIL

    Mr President,

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Honourable Members,

    I have mentioned just a few of the initiatives we should deliver over the next 16 months. But this alone will not be enough to regain the hearts and minds of Europeans.

    Now is the time to chart the direction for the future.

    In March, the Commission presented our White Paper on the future of Europe, with five scenarios for what Europe could look like by 2025. These scenarios have been discussed, scrutinised and partly ripped apart. That is good – they were conceived for exactly this purpose. I wanted to launch a process in which Europeans determined their own path and their own future.

    The future of Europe cannot be decided by decree. It has to be the result of democratic debate and, ultimately, broad consensus. This House contributed actively, through the three ambitious resolutions on Europe’s future and your participation in many of the more than 2,000 public events that the Commission organised since March.

    Now is the time to draw first conclusions from this debate. Time to move from reflection to action. From debate to decision.

    Today I would like to present you my view: my own ‘scenario six’, if you will.

    This scenario is rooted in decades of first-hand experience. I have lived and worked for the European project my entire life. I have seen good times and bad.

    I have sat on many different sides of the table: as a Minister, as Prime Minister, as President of the Eurogroup, and now as President of the Commission. I was there in Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon as our Union evolved and enlarged.

    I have always fought for Europe. At times I have suffered with and because of Europe and even despaired for it.

    Through thick and thin, I have never lost my love of Europe.

    But there is rarely love without pain.

    Love for Europe because Europe and the European Union have achieved something unique in this fraying world: peace within and outside of Europe. Prosperity for many if not yet for all.

    This is something we have to remember during the European Year of Cultural Heritage. 2018 must be a celebration of cultural diversity.

    A UNION OF VALUES

    Our values are our compass.

    For me, Europe is more than just a single market. More than money, more than the euro. It was always about values.

    In my scenario six, there are three principles that must always anchor our Union: freedom, equality and the rule of law.

    Europe is first of all a Union of freedom. Freedom from the kind of oppression and dictatorship our continent knows all too well – sadly none more than central and Eastern Europe. Freedom to voice your opinion, as a citizen and as a journalist – a freedom we too often take for granted. It was on these freedoms that our Union was built. But freedom does not fall from the sky. It must be fought for. In Europe and throughout world.

    Second, Europe must be a Union of equality.

    Equality between its Members, big and small, East and West, North and South.

    Make no mistake, Europe extends from Vigo to Varna. From Spain to Bulgaria.

    East to West: Europe must breathe with both lungs. Otherwise our continent will struggle for air.

    In a Union of equals, there can be no second class citizens. It is unacceptable that in 2017 there are still children dying of diseases that should long have been eradicated in Europe. Children in Romania or Italy must have the same access to measles vaccines as other children right across Europe. No ifs, no buts. This is why we are working with all Member States to support national vaccination efforts. Avoidable deaths must not occur in Europe.

    In a Union of equals, there can be no second class workers. Workers should earn the same pay for the same work in the same place. This is why the Commission proposed new rules on posting of workers. We should make sure that all EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way by a new European inspection and enforcement body. It seems absurd to have a Banking Authority to police banking standards, but no commonLabour Authority for ensuring fairness in our single market. We will create one.

    In a Union of equals, there can be no second class consumers. I will not accept that in some parts of Europe,people are sold food of lower quality than in other countries, despite the packaging and branding being identical. Slovaks do not deserve less fish in their fish fingers. Hungarians less meat in their meals. Czechs less cacao in their chocolate. EU law outlaws such practices already. We must now equip national authorities with stronger powers to cut out any illegal practices wherever they exist.

    Third, in Europe the strength of the law replaced the law of the strong.

    The rule of law means that law and justice are upheld by an independent judiciary.

    Accepting and respecting a final judgement is what it means to be part of a Union based on the rule of law. Member States gave final jurisdiction to the European Court of Justice. The judgements of the Court have to be respected by all. To undermine them, or to undermine the independence of national courts, is to strip citizens of their fundamental rights.

    The rule of law is not optional in the European Union. It is a must.

    Our Union is not a State but it is a community of law.

    A MORE UNITED UNION

    Honourable Members,

    These three principles must be the foundations on which we build a more united, stronger and more democratic Union.

    When we talk about our future, experience tells me new Treaties and new institutions are not the answer people are looking for. They are merely a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They might mean something to us here in Strasbourg and in Brussels. But they do not mean a lot to anyone else.

    I am only interested in institutional reforms if they lead to more efficiency in our Union.

    Instead of hiding behind calls for Treaty change – which is in any case inevitable – we must first change the mind-set that for some to win others must lose.

    Democracy is about compromise. And the right compromise makes winners out of everyone. A more united Union should see compromise, not as something negative, but as the art of bridging differences. Democracy cannot function without compromise. Europe cannot function without compromise. This is what the work between Parliament, Council and Commission should always be about.

    A more united Union also needs to become more inclusive.

    If we want to strengthen the protection of our external borders, then we need to open the Schengen areaof free movement to Bulgaria and Romania immediately. We should also allow Croatia to become a full Schengen member once it meets all the criteria.

    If we want the euro to unite rather than divide our continent, then it should be more than the currency of a select group of countries. The euro is meant to be the single currency of the European Unionas a whole. All but two of our Member States are required and entitled to join the euro once they fulfil all conditions.

    Member States that want to join the euro must be able to do so. This is why I am proposing to create a Euro-accession Instrument, offering technical and even financial assistance.

    If we want banks to operate under the same rules and under the same supervision across our continent, then we should encourage all Member States to join the Banking Union. Completing the Banking Union is a matter of urgency. We need to reduce the remaining risks in the banking systems of some of our Member States. Banking Union can only function if risk-reduction and risk-sharing go hand in hand. As everyone well knows, this can only be achieved if the conditions, as proposed by the Commission in November 2015, are met. To get access to a common deposit insurance scheme you first need to do your homework.

    If we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the European Pillar of Social Rights as soon as possible and at the latest at the Gothenburg summit in November. National social systems will still remain diverse and separate for a long time. But at the very least, we should work for a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair.

    Europe cannot work if it shuns workers.

    If we want more stability in our neighbourhood, thenwe must maintain a credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans.

    It is clear that there will be no further enlargement during the mandate of this Commission and this Parliament. No candidate is ready yet. But thereafter the European Union will be greater than 27 in number. Accession candidates must give the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights utmost priority.

    This rules out EU membership for Turkey for the foreseeable future.

    Turkey has been taking giant strides away from the European Union for some time.

    Journalists belong in newsrooms not in prisons. They belong where freedom of expression reigns.

    The call I make to those in power in Turkey is this: Let our journalists go. And not just them either. Stop insulting our Member States by comparing their leaders to fascists and Nazis. Europe is a continent of mature democracies. Insults create roadblocks. Sometimes I get the feeling Turkey is intentionally placing these roadblocks so that it can blame Europe for any breakdown in accession talks.

    As for us, we will always keep our hands stretched out towards the great Turkish people and those who are ready to work with us on the basis of our values.

    A STRONGER UNION

    Honourable Members,

    Our Union must also grow stronger.

    I want a stronger single market.

    When it comes to important single market questions, I want decisions in the Council to be taken more often and more easily by qualified majority – with the equal involvement of the European Parliament. We do not need to change the Treaties for this. There are so-called “passerelle clauses” in the current Treaties which allow us to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in certain areas – if all Heads of State or Government agree to do so.

    I am also strongly in favour of moving to qualified majority voting for decisions on the common consolidated corporate tax base, on VAT, on fair taxes for the digital industry and on the financial transaction tax. Europe has to be able to act quicker and more decisively.

    I want a stronger Economic and Monetary Union.

    The euro area is more resilient now than in years past. We now have the European Stabilisation Mechanism (ESM). I believe the ESM should now progressively graduate into a European Monetary Fund and be firmly anchored in our Union. The Commission will make concrete proposals for this in December.

    We need a European Minister of Economy and Finance: a European Minister that promotes and supports structural reforms in our Member States. He or she can build on the work the Commission has been doing since 2015 with our Structural Reform Support Service. The new Minister should coordinate all EU financial instruments that can be deployed when a Member State is in a recession or hit by a fundamental crisis.

    I am not calling for a new position just for the sake of it. I am calling for efficiency. The Commissioner for economic and financial affairs – ideally also a Vice-President – should assume the role of Economy and Finance Minister. He or she should also preside the Eurogroup.

    The European Economy and Finance Minister must be accountable to the European Parliament.

    We do not need parallel structures. We do not need a budget for the Euro area but a strong Euro area budget line within the EU budget.

    I am also not fond of the idea of having a separate euro area parliament.

    The Parliament of the euro area is the European Parliament.

    The European Union must also be stronger in fighting terrorism. In the past three years, we have made real progress. But we still lack the means to act quickly in case of cross-border terrorist threats.

    This is why I call for a European intelligence unit that ensures data concerning terrorists and foreign fighters are automatically shared among intelligence services and with the police.

    I also see a strong case for tasking the new European Public Prosecutor with prosecuting cross-border terrorist crimes.

    I want our Union to become a stronger global actor. In order to have more weight in the world, we must be able to take foreign policy decisions quicker. This is why I want Member States to look at which foreign policy decisions could be moved from unanimity to qualified majority voting. The Treaty already provides for this, if all Member States agree to do it.

    And I want us to dedicate further efforts to defence matters. A new European Defence Fund is in the offing. As is a Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defence. By 2025 we need a fully-fledged European Defence Union. We need it. And NATO wants it.

    Last but not least, I want our Union to have a stronger focus on things that matter, building on the work this Commission has already undertaken. We should not meddle in the everyday lives of European citizens by regulating every aspect. We should be big on the big things. We should not march in with a stream of new initiatives or seek ever growing competences. We should give back competences to Member States where it makes sense.

    This is why this Commission has been big on big issues and small on the small ones, putting forward less than 25 new initiatives a year where previous Commissions proposed over 100. We have handed back powers where it makes more sense for national governments to deal with things. Thanks to the good work of Commissioner Vestager, we have delegated 90% of state aid decisions to the regional or local level.

    To finish the work we started, I am setting up a Subsidiarity and Proportionality Task Force as ofthis month to take a very critical look at all policy areas to make sure we are only acting where the EU adds value. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who has a proven track record on better regulation, will head this Task Force. The Timmermans Task Force, which should include Members of this Parliament as well as Members of national Parliaments, should report back in a years’ time.

    A MORE DEMOCRATIC UNION

    Honourable Members,

    Mr President,

    Our Union needs to take a democratic leap forward.

    I would like to see European political parties start campaigning for the next elections much earlier than in the past. Too often Europe-wide elections have been reduced to nothing more than the sum of national campaigns. European democracy deserves better.

    Today, the Commission is proposing new rules on the financing of political parties and foundations. We should not be filling the coffers of anti-European extremists. We should be giving European parties the means to better organise themselves.

    I also have sympathy for the idea of having transnational lists – though I am aware this is an idea more than a few of you disagree with. Such lists would help make European Parliament elections more European and more democratic.

    I also believe that, over the months to come, we should involve national Parliaments and civil society at national, regional and local level more in the work on the future of Europe. Over the last three years, Members of the Commission have visited national Parliaments more than 650 times. They also debated in more than 300 interactive Citizens’ Dialogues in more than 80 cities and towns across 27 Member States. But we can still do more. This is why I support President Macron’s idea of organising democratic conventions across Europe in 2018.

    As the debate gathers pace, I will personally pay particular attention to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania in 2018. This is the year they will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Those who want to shape the future of our continent should well understand and honour our common history. This includes these four countries – Europe would not be whole without them.

    The need to strengthen democracy also has implications for the European Commission. Today, I am sending the European Parliament a new Code of Conduct for Commissioners. The new Code first of all makes clear that Commissioners can be candidates in European Parliament elections under the same conditions as everyone else. The new Code will of course strengthen the integrity requirements for Commissioners both during and after their mandate.

    If you want to strengthen European democracy, then you cannot reverse the democratic progress seen with the creation of lead candidates – ‘Spitzenkandidaten‘.

    I am convinced that any future President will benefit greatly from the unique experience of having campaigned in all quarters of our beautiful continent. To understand the challenges of his or her job and the diversity of our Member States, a future President should have met citizens in the townhalls of Helsinki as well as in the squares of Athens. In my personal experience of such a campaign, it makes you more humble, but also strengthens you during your mandate. And you can face the other leaders in the European Council with the confidence that you have been elected, just as they have. This is good for the balance of our Union.

    More democracy means more efficiency. Europe would function better if we were to merge the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

    This is nothing against my good friend Donald, with whom I have worked seamlessly together for the past three years. This is nothing against Donald or against me.

    Europe would be easier to understand if one captain was steering the ship.

    Having a single President would better reflect the true nature of our European Union as both a Union of States and a Union of citizens.

     

    OUR ROADMAP

    Honourable members,

    The vision of a more united, stronger and more democratic Europe I am outlining today combines elements from all of the scenarios I set out in March.

    But our future cannot remain a scenario, a sketch, an idea amongst others.

    We have to prepare the Union of tomorrow, today.

    This morning I sent a Roadmap to President Tajani, President Tusk as well as to the holders of the rotating Presidencies of the Council between now and March 2019, outlining where we should go from here.

    An important element will be the plans the Commission will present in May 2018 for how the future EU budget can match our ambition and make sure we can deliver on everything we promise.

    On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people.

    On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.

    European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come.

    This is why I call on President Tusk and Romania, the country holding the Presidency in the first half of 2019, to organise a Special Summit in Romania on 30 March 2019. My wish is that this summit be held in the beautiful ancient city of Sibiu, or Hermannstadt as I know it. It should be the moment we come together to take the decisions needed for a more united, stronger and democratic Europe.

    My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values. Where all Member States firmly respect the rule of law. Where being a full member of the euro area, the Banking Union and the Schengen area has become the norm for all EU Member States. Where we have shored up the foundations of our Economic and Monetary Union so that we can defend our single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help. Where our single market will be fairer towards workers from the East and from the West. Where we managed to agree on a strong pillar of social standards. Where profits will be taxed where they were made. Where terrorists have no loopholes to exploit. Where we have agreed on a proper European Defence Union. Where a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.

    If our citizens wake up to this Union on 30 March 2019, then they should be able vote in the European Parliament elections a few weeks later with the firm conviction that our Union is a place that works for them.

    CONCLUSION

    Honourable Members,

    Europe was not made to stand still. It must never do so.

    Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors taught me that Europe only moves forward when it is bold. The single market, Schengen and the single currency were all written off as pipe dreams before they happened. And yet these three ambitious projects are now a reality.

    I hear those who say we should not rock the boat now that things have started to get better.

    But now is not the time to err on the side of caution.

    We started to fix the roof. But we must complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is.

    Because when the next clouds appear on the horizon – and they will – it will be too late.

    So let’s throw off the bowlines.

    Sail away from the harbour.

    And catch the trade winds in our sails.

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  • European Agenda on Migration: Commission calls on all parties to sustain progress and make further efforts

    With most Member States having shown that relocation works if there is political will, the Commission is calling on those Member States who have not yet done so to take steps to comply with their legal obligations and contribute fairly and proportionally to the scheme. The Commission is also making a renewed call to further accelerate the roll-out of the European Border and Coast Guard and to fill persistent gaps in manpower and equipment as swiftly as possible. The EU-Turkey Statement continued to deliver results – as shown by a consistent reduction in irregular crossings to Greece and the successful resettlement of over 6,000 Syrians given safe and legal pathways to Europe. Continuous efforts are still needed to ensure the full implementation of the Statement and in particular to improve the processing of asylum requests in Greece.

    European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Two years after the launch of the European Agenda on Migration, our joint efforts to manage migratory flows are starting to bear fruit. But the push factors for migration to Europe remain and the tragic loss of life in the Mediterranean continues. As the weather improves, we must redouble our cooperation – working with third countries, protecting our EU external borders, together giving refuge to those who need it and ensuring that those who have no right to remain in the EU are quickly returned. We can only effectively manage migration in Europe if we all work together in a spirit of solidarity and responsibility.”

    Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “Our Union is based on solidarity and the sharing of responsibility. These fundamental values apply to all our policies and migration is no exception. We cannot and we will not leave those Member States with an external border on their own. And when it comes to relocation, let me be crystal clear: the implementation of the Council Decisions on relocation is a legal obligation, not a choice.”

    Relocation and resettlement: all should contribute

    The pace of relocation has significantly increased in 2017 with almost 10,300 persons relocated since January — a fivefold increase compared to the same period in 2016. As of 9 June, the total number of relocations stands at 20,869 (13,973 from Greece, 6,896 from Italy). With almost all Member States now relocating from Italy and Greece, it is feasible to relocate all those eligible (currently around 11,000 registered in Greece and around 2,000 registered in Italy, with arrivals in 2016 and 2017 still to be registered) by September 2017. In any case, Member States’ legal obligation to relocate will not cease after September: the Council Decisions on relocation apply to all persons arriving in Greece or Italy until 26 September 2017 and eligible applicants must be relocated within a reasonable timeframe thereafter.

    Over the last months, the Commission has repeatedly called on those Member States that have not yet relocated a single person, or that are not pledging to relocate, to do so. Regrettably, despite these repeated calls, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, in breach of their legal obligations stemming from the Council Decisions and their commitments to Greece, Italy and other Member States, have not yet taken the necessary action. Against this background, and as indicated in the previous Relocation and Resettlement Report, the Commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three Member States.

    Progress on resettlement continues to be well on track with nearly three quarters   (16,419) of the 22,504 resettlements agreed in July 2015 having already been carried out. Resettlements under the EU-Turkey Statement reached a new record high in May 2017 with almost 1,000 Syrian refugees being provided with safe and legal pathways to Europe. The total number of resettlements from Turkey under the Statement now stands at 6,254.  

    EU-Turkey Statement: concrete results in managing migration jointly

    More than a year after the EU-Turkey Statement was agreed by EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey, and despite the challenges, the Statement continues to deliver concrete results, ensuring an effective management of migratory flows along the Eastern Mediterranean route.

    The number of daily crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands remains at around 50 per day and, despite recent tragic incidents, the number of lives lost in the Aegean has fallen substantially. Overall, arrivals have decreased by 97% since the Statement became operational. The pace of return operations has seen some positive developments with an additional 311 returns carried out since the previous report in March, bringing the total number of migrants returned to 1,798. However, arrivals still outpace the number of returns from the Greek islands to Turkey, leading to pressure on the reception structure on the islands. To increase returns and improve the conditions on the islands, additional efforts from the Greek authorities, EU Agencies and Member States are needed.

    Progress in other areas of the Statement is also ongoing, with the continuing efforts by the EU and Turkey to accelerate the delivery of the financial support under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Almost all of the funding for 2016-2017 has now been allocated (€2.9 billion out of €3 billion) and contracts have already been signed for a total of €1.57 billion. Currently, more than 600,000 refugees in Turkey are supported by the Emergency Social Safety Net and the number of Syrians supported through direct cash transfers is expected to increase to 1.3 million.

    The Commission has increased its efforts to facilitate the swift finalisation of the Standard Operating Procedures for the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme and is also continuing to encourage Turkey to complete the seven outstanding benchmarks of the Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.

    European Border and Coast Guard: accelerated roll-out needed

    Progress in fully rolling out the European Border and Coast Guard has continued over the past months. With over 1,600 officers supporting national forces in Greece (944), Italy (402), Bulgaria (166) and Spain (65), the EU’s external borders are better protected than ever before. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency completed the vulnerability assessments of Schengen States’ external borders and concrete recommendations have been addressed for 20 Schengen States. Further progress has been made in negotiations with Serbia on the status agreement and the Commission intends to shortly propose the launch of negotiations with other neighbouring countries, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

    The pace of return operations organised by the European Border and Coast Guard has continued to grow, with 6,799 irregularly staying migrants returned in 2017 so far, representing an increase of over 157% compared to the same period of last year. However, Member States need to rapidly increase their use of the Agency’s reinforced capacity on return and make full use of the support offered by the Agency for the organisation of return operations. Additional efforts are also needed from Member States to respond to calls for deployment for ongoing operations and close the gaps both in human resources and technical equipment. These gaps need to be fulfilled as a matter of priority to ensure the continuation of ongoing operations and the full availability of the Rapid Reaction Pools, in particular of the equipment pool to which only 14 Member States have so far contributed.

    Partnership Framework and Central Mediterranean Route: tangible progress

    The Commission is also presenting today the results and lessons learned under the Partnership Framework on Migration, one year after its launch. Progress has been made in the fight against traffickers with closer cooperation with key countries in Africa to tackle migration flows through the Central Mediterranean route, with a strong focus on cooperation with Libya. The EU Trust Fund has supported political priorities, mobilising around €1.9 billion for 118 projects in one year to address the root causes of migration and supporting better migration management in countries of origin and transit. However, further efforts are needed in a number of areas, in particular to step up return and readmission to partner countries (for more information, see press release).

    For More Information

     Thirteenth Report on Relocation and Resettlement

    Communication: Thirteenth Report on Relocation and Resettlement

    Annex 1: Relocations from Greece

    Annex 2: Relocations from Italy

    Annex 3: Relocations from Italy and Greece

    Annex 4: Resettlement State of Play

    Factsheet: Relocation and Resettlement

    Factsheet: Managing the refugee crisis: EU financial support to Greece

    The European Agenda on Migration

    Council Decision on the relocation of 40,000 people from Italy and Greece

    Council Decision on the relocation of 120,000 people from Italy and Greece

    Council Conclusions on Resettlement of 20,000 persons in need of international protection

    EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016

     Sixth Progress Report on the EU-Turkey Statement

    Communication: Sixth Report on the progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement

    Annex: Progress on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan

    Factsheet: The Facility for Refugees in Turkey

    First Annual Report on Facility for Refugees in Turkey

    Operational implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement: Member States pledges and deployments for Frontex and EASO operations – returns and resettlements

    EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March

    EU-Turkey Action Plan of 15 October, activated on 29 November

    Appointment of the EU Coordinator

     Fourth Progress Report on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard

    Communication: Fourth Report on the operationalisation of the European Border and Coast Guard

    Factsheet: Securing Europe’s External Borders: The European Border and Coast Guard

    Securing Europe’s Borders: European Commission website

    European Border and Coast Guard Agency website

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  • Remarks by Commissioner Avramopoulos after his meeting with German Minister of the Interior de Maizère

    I am very pleased to be once again here in Berlin, hosted by my friend Minister Thomas de Maizère. We were both recently at the Munich Security Conference, and this morning also at the European Police Congress. 

    This morning our discussions focused on the internal and external dimensions of migration, security and border management. We agreed that in the coming months we need to find more common ground for the reform of Dublin based on the principles of solidarity and fair responsibility-sharing among Member States. 

    The Dublin reform is part of our wider effort to develop an effective and comprehensive asylum system. And I hope that we will find an agreement swiftly on the reform, which will improve our procedures, guarantee refugee rights and avoid abuses.

    We need to protect those who need protection, prevent irregular migration and return those who have no right to stay.

    With Thomas, we are on the same line on all these issues. In this context, I have also informed the Minister of the Commission’s intention to put forward next week an Action Plan on Return and a Recommendation to Member States on the efficient implementation of return procedures. 

    Moreover, we cannot manage migration efficiently without a coordinated approach for our relations with third countries of origin and transit but there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of readmission.

    I welcome Germany’s involvement and strong support of the EU’s external approach. Engaging with Libya and other countries in the region to address the situation in the Southern Mediterranean is of outmost importance. Cooperation with partners in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco is necessary, not only to reduce pressure on Libya’s borders, but also to prevent a possible shift of routes.

    At the same time, we are reinforcing controls at our external borders. Thanks to the European Border and Coast Guard, a pool of 1,500 border guards can now be deployed in just five days.

    Last week, an agreement was reached in the European Parliament to have systematic checks of everybody crossing our external borders.

    We also want to tackle existing information gaps which can pose real security threats in border management or elsewhere. The recent improvements that we proposed under the Schengen Information System will for example make sure that all return decisions and all alerts on irregular stays are properly encoded now.

    We also need to conclude as soon as possible the negotiations on the Entry/Exit system and ETIAS.

    These are initiatives that will first of all strengthen our border management, at a time when our borders are nearby conflict zones. They are therefore crucial initiatives for our security, but also to help us detect and combat irregular migration.

    In June we will come forth with further initiatives to strengthen the Schengen Information System, and its interoperability with other databases.

    We are here in a city and a country that is at the very forefront of our fight against terrorism as well as of the global effort to manage migration and refugee flows better. It is leading by example on both fronts, and I want to thank Thomas for that. 

    When voices of nationalism and xenophobia are increasingly louder these days, Germany continues to defend and uphold a truly European approach. An approach which is true to the values of our Union, and to our legal, moral and political obligations.

    Know that the European Union stands by your side and is your ally and partner, just as you are ours.

    Thank you.

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  • Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Mogherini and Commissioner Avramopoulos at the College Readout of 25 January

    Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini

    As you know very well, in the last two years we have been working, I can add finally, very intensively to reduce human suffering and the loss of lives, especially in the Central Mediterranean. If I can give you a number, [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia alone saved last year more than 32 000 people and apprehended more than 100 smugglers. Still, last year we faced more than 4 500 losses of lives in the Central Mediterranean route and these are not numbers; these are persons with stories, names and every a single life counts.

    So this is why we thought it is essential that we all do more, all, meaning all together. This is why we presented today jointly a package of additional concrete measures to contribute to the Malta Summit discussion of the Heads of State and Government and to suggest, as I said, concrete actions that can be done; that can bring some positive results with an envelope of €200 million for 2017 to support these concrete actions. There is no magic solution, there is no immediate solution to manage a phenomenon that is complex, extremely complex, but there are things that can be usefully done, as I said, first of all, to save lives, disrupt the business model of the smugglers and to protect people.

    We know very well that the real long-term solution lies in two difficult things to achieve but on which we are working daily. On one side, peace and stability in Libya, and I met just yesterday Martin Kobler, the UN Special Envoy for Libya and I will meet the Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez Mustafa al-] Serraj next week just ahead of the Malta Summit because the diplomatic work of the European Union with the neighbouring countries, with the African Union, with the Arab League, with the UN is going on constantly. We will have this issue in the agenda of the next Foreign Affairs Council also. And, on the other side, the real solution comes with the economic development of Africa and here also our daily work is going on with the Migration Compacts we are implemented with 5 key countries [Senegal, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali], with the [European] External Investment Plan, with the Trust Funds and the Valetta Summit that we had last year with the African partners.

    So as the work goes on these two main issues, main elements that will bring in the mid-, long-term the real solution to the problem, there are things we can do right now more and more together to improve the situation. I will for sure let Dimitris [Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship]  enter more into the details of some of the actions of the package; I will only highlight three elements of how we believe we can increase and improve our collective work to manage the Central Mediterranean route. One: increase the training of the Libyan coast guards; this is essential because the losses of lives we see are more and more in the territorial waters of Libya and so it is a Libyan responsibility to prevent these losses of lives and to dismantle the traffickers’ networks on the Libyan coast and on the Libyan waters. So we are ready to help, to train, to support in a sense of partnership, empowering and enabling the Libyan authorities to manage to do this work. And we are doing that already but the proposal is to increase significantly the training of the Libyan coast guards.

    Second element: the work on the Southern borders of Libya. Here again we have started already our work, trying to facilitate a common approach between Libya, Chad and Niger, in particular, managing a complicated border through which migrants enter Libya, but which is also a sensitive border in terms of security for the neighbours of Libya to its South. We have as you know, or as you might know, a presence there with missions and operations of the European Union that we are regionalising, so that we can provide more support to monitor and manage the Southern border of Libya better from the inside and from the outside.

    Third element I would mention shortly is the important work that we can do to support the IOM [International Organisation for Migration] and the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] in their capacity, or possibility, to work inside Libya. We know very well that the situation of the migrants who are currently present in the country is a very serious one that needs to be tackle with the highest standards when it comes to human rights – by the way, human rights are always part of our programmes including the training of coastguards in Libya; and with a particular attention to women rights if I can underline this aspect that is really important giving the composition of the flows- but we have discussed and I have met in these last weeks both Filippo Grandi [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the General Director of the IOM Mr [William Lacy] Swing to see how the European Union can support more both IOM and the UNHCR in order for them to work more, to have more access, to work better inside Libya – that would be for us the only guarantee that international standards are met, lives are protected and the management of the flow inside the country is done properly.

    Obviously there are complicated issues to tackle, including security, and this is why we are working together both, as I said, with the Libyan authorities, with the Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez el-Sarraj ]but also with the municipalities, with Martin Kobler for the UN, with [Filippo]Grandi and with [William Lacy] Swing to see how we can more effectively allow them to work in this respect.

    I will finish by saying that the general principle that guide us is, first of all, strengthening the Libyan authorities and their capacity to operate and doing this in the sense of partnership.

    Respect and partnership is our guiding principle as it is for our wok on the [Migration] Compacts with our African partners, the same goes in this case because we see a shared responsibility. We are here to help, we are here to support, we are here to do our part; we also need others to do their own part, but again the sense is that of working together, each with our responsibilities and limits, but together to try and save lives because we see people dying in the Mediterranean.

    There are so many other stories that we do not see or we do not hear, still they exist, and we have the human duty, moral duty, to prevent these terrible sufferings. Thank you.

    Remarks by Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos

    Dear all,

    All our elements today are interconnected to comprehensively manage migration in all its aspects, from both the external and internal side.

    As mentioned by Federica, the actions that we propose to launch in cooperation with Libya and its neighbouring countries, if they are rapidly and fully implemented, they can substantially reduce the irregular migration flows in the Central Mediterranean and the loss of lives at sea.

    These actions complement and complete the work we started last year in the Eastern Mediterranean through the EU-Turkey Statement on the one hand, and on the other hand through the Partnership Framework in relation to Sub-Saharan African countries.

    Successfully reducing the irregular flows in the Central as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, and at the same time improving the conditions of migrants and refugees in all the countries eighbouring the EU, including in Libya, will also affect our internal policies on migration.

    This would:

    • facilitate the discussions on solidarity and responsibility,
    • help us to advance on the revision of the Common European Asylum System
    • and facilitate the possibility of returning irregular migrants.

    All this requires a collective effort of the EU and all its Member States, as well as of other key international actors, first of all the International Organisation of Migration, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Of key importance will be for us to urgently develop cooperation with all the relevant actors in Libya and the neighbouring countries, and mobilise adequate resources.

    This is in the interest not only of the EU and of the migrants and refugees stranded in Libya, but also in the interest of the reconstruction of Libya as a country.

    Our European Border and Coast Guard as well as Europol will play a key role in this new approach that we are proposing to adopt in the Central Mediterranean. Both agencies will actively contribute to the dismantling of smugglers and the organised crime networks hiding behind them.

    In that sense, the European Border and Coast Guard is a central piece, not just to better secure our external borders, but it also interconnects our internal and external migration policy.

    In 9 months we were able to adopt it; in the past 3 months we have made important progress to operationalise it. We now have different pools in place for rapid reaction and for return, increasing both the human resources as well as the technical equipment to assist Member States.

    What is now urgently needed is for Member States to continue to cooperate and fill the gaps.

    The vulnerability assessments process is also critical. The Agency must ensure a priority process for identifying the most urgent vulnerabilities.

    Finally, the European Border and Coast Guard will also have a broadened mandate on return and cooperation with third countries.

    That is why I am pleased that today we also adopt recommendations to the Council to authorise the opening of negotiations with Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

    Let me however remind that the European Border and Coast Guard does not replace the responsibilities and competences of Member States. It rather complements and supports their duties.

    The first three months have shown great progress, now it is important to keep fulfilling all outstanding gaps. Fully operationalising the European Border and Coast Guard requires continuous and long-lasting efforts and a comprehensive approach.

    The security environment is of course indivisible from the rest of our package today on getting back to Schengen, on better protecting our external borders, and managing the flows from Libya.

    Today our 4th report on progress towards a genuine and effective Security Union is presented. It focusses on information sharing, protecting soft targets, cybersecurity and data protection in the security area.

    All these are critical areas for the security of our citizens, and major priorities for our actions in the near future.

    In the same vein, our efforts to return to a normalisation of the Schengen area must also be coordinated. We currently have temporary border controls in place: these are exceptional measures for an exceptional situation.

    My position on Schengen has always been crystal clear. Our and my personal goal remains to gradually phase out the current temporary border controls and return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area as soon as possible.

    Despite the progress and steady improvements over the past months, we are still not back to normal unfortunately.

    That is why today we recommend prolonging temporary internal border controls in the same 5 Member States for an additional, strict and limited period of 3 months.

    I want to be clear however: we only recommend that controls continue as far as needed, and always as a last resort. We explicitly encourage Member States to use alternatives, in particular police checks in the vicinity of the border.

    These controls cannot go on forever and they will not. Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union, the most tangible example of European integration, and we must do everything to safeguard, defend and protect it.

    Thank you.

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  • Text adopted – Migration and refugees in Europe – P8_TA(2015)0317 – Thursday, 10 September 2015 – Strasbourg – Final edition

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

    –  having regard to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,

    –  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,

    –  having regard to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the additional protocol thereto,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 9 October 2013 on EU and Member State measures to tackle the flow of refugees as a result of the conflict in Syria(1) ,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2013 on migratory flows in the Mediterranean, with particular attention to the tragic events off Lampedusa(2) ,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2014 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the need for a holistic EU approach to migration(3) ,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 29 April 2015 on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies(4) ,

    –  having regard to the Commission’s European Agenda on Migration of 13 May 2015 (COM(2015)0240),

    –  having regard to the ten-point action plan on migration of the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council of 20 April 2015,

    –  having regard to the conclusions of the European Council Special Summit on the Mediterranean refugee crisis of 23 April 2015,

    –  having regard to the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of April 2012 entitled ‘Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea’,

    –  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 July 2015,

    –  having regard to the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative, or ‘Khartoum Process’, adopted on 28 November 2014 by African Union and EU Member States and institutions,

    –  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, in particular that entitled ‘Banking on mobility over a generation: follow-up to the regional study on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants’, published in May 2015,

    –  having regard to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union 2014,

    –  having regard to the debate on migration and refugees in Europe held in Parliament on 9 September 2015,

    –  having regard to Rule 123(2) and (4) of its Rules of Procedure,

    A.  whereas, as a consequence of persistent conflicts, regional instability and human rights violations, an unprecedented number of people are seeking protection in the EU; whereas the number of asylum applications concerning children has increased by 75 % since last year; whereas the summer period has demonstrated once again that migration is not a temporary issue and that the surge in refugee numbers looks set to continue, highlighting once more the urgent need to do everything possible to save the lives of people who are fleeing their countries and are in danger, and the fact that the Member States should abide by their international obligations, including rescue obligations at sea;

    B.  whereas 2 800 women, men and children have been reported dead or missing in 2015 in their attempt to reach a safe place in Europe, according to UNHCR data; whereas refugees and migrants are also losing their lives making their way over land in Europe;

    C.  whereas smugglers and human traffickers exploit irregular migration and put at risk the lives of immigrants for their own business profits, are responsible for thousands of deaths and pose a serious challenge to the EU and the Member States; whereas traffickers generate profits of EUR 20 billion per year from their criminal activities; whereas, according to Europol, organised criminal groups actively facilitating the transport of irregular migrants across the Mediterranean Sea have been linked to human trafficking, drugs, firearms and terrorism;

    D.  whereas the main countries of origin of asylum seekers in 2015 are Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq, according to FRONTEX data; whereas the vast majority of people fleeing these countries to Europe are granted protection, according to Eurostat;

    E.  whereas regional instability and conflict and the rise of IS/Da’esh in neighbouring conflict areas are having an impact on the mass influx of migrants and flows of displaced people and, therefore, on the number of individuals attempting to reach the EU;

    F.  whereas the last European Council meeting, held on 25-26 June 2015, and the subsequent Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting on 20 July 2015 failed to produce an agreement on a binding redistribution mechanism for the relocation and resettlement of people, and instead settled for a voluntary mechanism; whereas Member States failed to reach an agreement on providing 40 000 places for the relocation of refugees from Greece and Italy and instead pledged only 32 256 places;

    G.  whereas on 3 September 2015 European Council President Donald Tusk called for at least 100 000 refugees to be redistributed;

    H.  whereas, instead of the current ad hoc decision making, it is necessary to develop a longer-term approach to asylum and migration;

    I.  whereas many citizens are demonstrating an unprecedented level of solidarity with refugees, warmly welcoming them and providing an impressive level of support; whereas European citizens are thereby showing that protection of those in need and compassion remain truly European values;

    J.  whereas the current situation has highlighted a regrettable lack of solidarity on the part of governments towards asylum-seekers, and insufficiently coordinated and coherent action; whereas this is leading to a chaotic situation and human rights violations; whereas the different positions taken by individual Member States continue to highlight the fact that the EU has 28 fragmented migration policies; whereas the lack of unified asylum procedures and standards in the Member States leads to differing levels of protection, and in some cases even to inadequate guarantees for asylum seekers;

    K.  whereas some Member States and their leaders have taken a proactive approach and demonstrated preparedness and a willingness to receive refugees and establish a permanent and mandatory mechanism for allocating refugees among all Member States; whereas other Member States should follow this good example;

    L.  whereas the strategic report on a holistic approach to migration by its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will address EU asylum and migration policy in its entirety;

    M.  whereas under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Convention) people may seek asylum regardless of their country of origin, as long as they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion;

    1.  Expresses its deep regret and sorrow at the tragic loss of lives of people seeking asylum in the EU; urges the EU and the Member States to do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea or on land;

    2.  Expresses its solidarity with the high number of refugees and migrants who are victims of conflicts, grave violations of human rights, tangible governance failures and harsh repression;

    3.  Welcomes the efforts of civil society groups and individuals all over Europe who are mobilising in large numbers to welcome and provide aid to refugees and migrants; encourages European citizens to keep up their support and engagement for a humanitarian response to the refugee crisis; believes that such actions demonstrate true adherence to European values and are a sign of hope for the future of Europe;

    4.  Reiterates its support for its resolution of 29 April 2015 on the latest tragedies in the Mediterranean and EU migration and asylum policies; recalls the need for the EU to base its immediate response to the current refugee situation on solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, as stated in Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and on a holistic approach that takes into account safe and legal migration and full respect for fundamental rights and values;

    5.  Reiterates its commitment to open borders within the Schengen area, while ensuring effective management of external borders; stresses that the free movement of people within the Schengen area has been one of the biggest achievements of European integration;

    6.  Welcomes the Commission’s initiatives on relocation and resettlement, including the new one for emergency relocation of an increased number of asylum seekers in need of international protection, covering Greece, Italy and Hungary; endorses the announcement by the Commission of a permanent relocation mechanism, to be activated in emergency situations, taking into account the number of refugees present in the Member State, which is based on Article 78(2) of the TFEU; is prepared to deal with the new emergency relocation scheme under a fast-track procedure and declares its intention to advance all other measures proposed by the Commission in parallel, so as to ensure that Member States do not delay the permanent relocation scheme; reminds the Council that Parliament is strongly in favour of a binding relocation mechanism which, as far as possible, takes into account the preferences of refugees;

    7.  Welcomes the operational support which the Commission will provide to frontline Member States such as Greece, Italy and Hungary via ‘Hotspots’ by using expertise from the EU agencies such as FRONTEX, EASO and the European police office (Europol), to help Member States with the registration of people arriving; reminds the Member States that the success of such registration centres depends on their willingness to relocate refugees from the ‘Hotspots’ to their territories; believes that such an approach should clearly provide for effective mechanisms for the identification of people with specific needs and for their onward referral to services;

    8.  Notes the Commission proposal to strengthen the ‘safe country of origin’ provision of the Asylum Procedure Directive by establishing a common EU list of safe countries of origin; understands that this approach could limit the procedural rights of citizens of those countries; recalls that the acceptance rate for asylum applications varies greatly from one Member State to another, including as regards particular countries of origin; requests that steps be taken to ensure that this approach does not undermine the principle of non-refoulement and the individual right to asylum, especially that of people belonging to vulnerable groups;

    9.  Reiterates its calls on the Commission to amend the existing Dublin Regulation in order to include a permanent, binding system of distribution of asylum seekers among the 28 Member States, using a fair, compulsory allocation key, while taking into account the prospects of integration and the needs and specific circumstances of asylum seekers themselves;

    10.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to create significant budgetary room and readiness in the 2016 budget and multiannual financial framework (MFF) provisions, enabling more swift and substantial support to EASO and the Member States as regards their actions for reception and integration of refugees, including in the framework of the relocation and resettlement schemes;

    11.  Calls for rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States; urges the Commission to make sure that all Member States are properly implementing EU legislation in order to ensure that common effective, consistent and humane standards are applied across the EU taking into account the best interests of the child;

    12.  Believes that the implementation of the Return Directive should go hand in hand with respect for the procedures and standards that allow Europe to ensure humane and dignified treatment of returnees, in line with the principle of non-refoulement ; recalls that voluntary returns should be prioritised over forced returns;

    13.  Recalls that the possibilities for people in need of protection to legally enter the EU are very limited, and deplores the fact that they have no other option but to resort to criminal smugglers and dangerous routes to find protection in Europe, as a result of, among other factors, the building of fences and sealing-off of external borders; considers it therefore a high priority that the EU and its Member Statescreate safe and legal avenues for refugees, such as humanitarian corridors and humanitarian visas; stresses that, in addition to a compulsory resettlement programme, Member States should agree to provide other tools, such as enhanced family reunification, private sponsorship schemes and flexible visa arrangements, including for study and work; believes that it is necessary to amend the Visa Code by including more specific common provisions on humanitarian visas; asks Member States to make it possible to apply for asylum at their embassies and consular offices;

    14.  Recalls that the Member States should lay down strong criminal sanctions against human trafficking and smuggling, both into and across the EU; calls on the Member States to combat criminal networks of smugglers, but in the meantime not to penalise those who voluntarily help migrants on humanitarian grounds, including carriers, by asking the Commission to consider revising Council Directive 2001/51/EC; takes note of the EUNAVFOR Med operation against smugglers and traffickers in the Mediterranean;

    15.  Regrets that the leaders of some Member States and the far-right parties are using the current situation to fuel anti-migration sentiments while blaming the EU for the crisis, and that this is giving rise to growing numbers of violent actions against migrants; calls on the Commission and the Member States to take urgent steps against violent actions and hate speech targeting migrants; also calls on the leaders of the EU and the Member States to take a clear stance in favour of European solidarity and respect for human dignity;

    16.  Recalls that migration is a global and complex phenomenon which also requires a long‑term approach that addresses its root causes, such as poverty, inequality, injustice, climate change, corruption, ill-governance and armed conflict; urges the Commission and the Council to focus the Valletta Summit in November 2015 on such root causes; underlines the need for a comprehensive EU approach, strengthening the coherence of its internal and external policies, and notably its common foreign and security policy, development policy and migration policy; questions plans to link development aid to more border controls or readmission agreements by third countries;

    17.  Asks the EU, its Member States and other international donors to deliver urgently on the pledges made at the Financing for Development Conference held in July 2015 in Addis Ababa, and stresses the need to refocus development policy on building peaceful societies, combating corruption and promoting good governance, as specified in Sustainable Development Goal 16 of the post-2015 global development framework;

    18.  Urges the EU, its Member States and the international community to reinforce their role in conflict resolution and, in particular, help find sustainable political solutions in regions in conflict, such as Iraq, Syria and Libya and the Middle East, and to strengthen political dialogue, including with regional organisations, encompassing all human rights elements, in order to support inclusive and democratic institutions and the rule of law, to build the resilience of local communities and to foster social and democratic development in the countries of origin and among their peoples; calls in this regard for greater cooperation with countries in the region within the Arab League and the African Union in order to manage, resettle and grant asylum to persons in need of protection;

    19.  Calls on the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to convene an international conference on the refugee crisis, with the participation of the EU, its Member States, UN-related agencies, the United States, relevant international NGOs and Arab states, among others, with the aim of establishing a common global humanitarian aid strategy;

    20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

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