16 Oct 2019
Do you remember how I was right here on this podium in May 2015, explaining what we would do to address the challenges of the emerging migration and refugee crisis? How we would strengthen our operations to save lives, how we would send staff on the ground to help Member States under pressure, how we would increase financial resources, how we would relocate the most vulnerable, and how we would strengthen our borders?
Almost five years later, when we look back, we see that we have done exactly that.
Hotspots have been established as an operational model to quickly and efficiently respond in locations under pressure. More than 2300 officers are deployed from the European Border and Coast Guard, the European Asylum Support Office and Europol combined, at land and at sea in Member States under pressure. Over €11 billion in the EU's internal funding has been dedicated to migration and border management. Almost 35,000 people have been relocated within the EU from Italy and Greece, and on top of that more than 1,100 people have been relocated since summer 2018 under voluntary relocations. Almost 63,000 refugees have been effectively resettled to the EU, and Member States have pledged another 30,000 resettlements for next year. An up and running European Border and Coast Guard is being reformed as we speak to have a standing corps of 10,000 operational staff.
Collectively, we have made the EU better equipped to deal with current and future migration challenges.
Along the way, we have increasingly come to realise that this work is not only limited to what we do within our own borders. The 21st century will be remembered as the era of human mobility. This is a global challenge that we must manage with our partners. This is why in much of the work that we have accomplished these past years – political, operational and financial – the internal and external dimensions were more interlinked than ever before.
Whether this has been our cooperation with Turkey and the Middle East, our African partners, or our support to the Syrian crisis – this has never been just about money or financial support.
This has been about addressing root causes, reducing irregular and dangerous journeys, and directly helping vulnerable migrants and refugees on the ground.
In Turkey, we have supported almost 1.7 million refugees on a daily basis. The EU Trust Fund for Africa has offered basic support to over 5 million vulnerable people through 210 projects in 26 countries. And the EU's Regional Trust Fund for Syria has delivered over 75 projects worth more than €1.6 billion, focused on areas including education, livelihoods, health, and socio-economic support.
These are facts. These are actions that have a tangible impact on individual lives as well as on societies.
I do not wish you to get me wrong. I do not want to present the “ideal image”. This is not a moment to be self-congratulatory, victorious, or complacent. Yes, when you look at the big picture, the situation is much better and irregular arrivals to Europe are at a record-low. But we also need to zoom in: in our neighbourhood and inside the EU. What we see in the Eastern Mediterranean, the increased arrivals in Greece, as well as the latest armed hostilities in the northeast of Syria, gives cause for concern.
It shows we must be ready, always. The dire situation of migrants stranded in Libya is not acceptable. Morocco, a strategic partner on the Western Mediterranean route, can count on our full support. Also at home, we still need to get our house fully in order.
Important progress has been made on the asylum reform package that we have proposed, and I hope this can be completed soon. Because it is the only way to structurally and fairly address the challenges in our asylum system. We have made much progress on solidarity to manage migration within the EU over the past 5 years.
The number of voluntary relocations since July 2018, and the declaration discussed in Malta are steps in the right direction. We therefore need to build on these positive results, and create a migration and asylum system that works for all. In addition, I also hope that we can return to a Schengen area without internal border controls soon.
We have paved the way for this through the proposed reform of the Schengen Borders Code, strengthened external borders, and the option of alternative measures such as increased police controls and cross-border cooperation. This is where we stand today.
This is the honest story, which you can all see for yourselves in today's report. It is a story that is not yet finished. But it is also a story that cannot be unwritten either. What we have achieved and accomplished over the past 5 years, cannot be undone.
Our Union today is better equipped to face the future when it comes to migration challenges. Because here we have to be honest too: the phenomenon of migration will be with us for some time to come.
The question will never be how to stop it, but how to better manage it.