Remarks of Commissioner Avramopoulos at the Press Conference in Rome to mark the first flight under the EU Relocation Scheme, 9/10/2015

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9 Oct 2015
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos

I am a bit emotionally charged today. Just five months ago I was in Malta in order to assist at a funeral of desperate refugees who lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea. That was a journey to death.

Now I am in Rome with my good friends Jean and Angelino, in order to say farewell to some other people, to another journey, but this time a journey of hope.

In the meantime, between then and now, in Europe we have worked very hard with the Council, with the Member States.

We have submitted a very comprehensive proposal to address this unprecedented situation that Europe is confronted with.

I was here in Italy some months ago and have said that Italy is not alone. Europe is standing by Italy.

But we really had hard work to do. We had to convince everybody that they should be part of this project, on the basis of our noble values and principles upon which the European Union is built.

In a spirit of solidarity and responsibility, today we add one more of efficiency.

So what we are living today here in Rome is a tangible example, a paradigm of what we can do if we work together in this spirit of solidarity.

It's not the number that counts, it's not the fact that only 19 people were on board, but it is the act that counts.

It is actually today that the program starts to be implemented and I make an appeal from here, in the name of Europe, in name of our President Jean-Claude Juncker and all of us: let's move ahead, let's address this issue, let's give hope to these people. But also: let's put rules, let's fight smuggling, let's start the project of returning all those who are irregularly in Europe, and provide with our support and help for those who are in need of our protection.

This first relocation exercise is a small step but a significant one - it is symbolic of a Europe that takes responsibility, that shows solidarity and is capable of meeting the challenges before it. Relocations now need to become systematic, routine business in Italy and in Greece.

Sweden was one of the first Member States to come forward and pledge places - a crucial element in the roll out of the relocation scheme.

We are now counting on all Member States to work closely with the Italian and Greek authorities, supported by our Hotspot teams,to relocate several hundred people per month in the coming months.

Relocation and solidarity is one part of the puzzle, but it goes hand in hand with responsibility and the implementation of the hotspot approach.

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