I would like to thank Minister Carmen Dan for her warm welcome in Bucharest today for our first meeting under the Romanian Presidency.
Romania's Presidency comes at a crucial moment with 4 months to go until the European elections.
Ahead of this important appointment with democracy, it is essential that we show our citizens that we can address common challenges together – and in particular issues that our citizens care very deeply about.
This is not about delivering for the European elections as such, this is about leaving a legacy. We need to deliver on the last building blocks to ensure EU solidarity on migration, to even better protect our external borders and to finalise the Security Union.
I know many of you are eager to hear where we stand on disembarkation and temporary arrangements. I was very honest with ministers today. I told them to stop playing games and negotiating with human lives. This is really in no one’s interest.
Temporary arrangements are not aimed at creating pull factors but at offering the assurance that, if as a last resort disembarkationdoes indeed take place in Europe, the allocation of a certain number of migrants among some Member States will take place quickly.
This can only work if enough Member States participate, and I have called on all to do so. Temporary arrangements are also not aimed at replacing the Dublin regulation.
They are aimed to prepare and precede, and serve as a bridge until the new Dublin Regulation becomes applicable.
But as you know, it’s not only about Dublin, which is only one element of our comprehensive reform of the Common European Asylum System.
Discussions advanced today, and I hope we can translate this into concrete and definitive progress at the next Home Affairs Council in a month’s time.
We need to focus our efforts and energy on the real challenges: Addressing the continuing increase of irregular arrivals in Spain. Working with Greece to keep the Eastern Mediterranean route under control Assisting migrants stranded in countries such as Libya, Niger and others
When it comes to the Schengen area of free movement, the way forward – the only one – is crystal clear. Better protecting our external borders will allow us to safeguard in the long term a Schengen area without internal border controls.
This is why we need to further reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard so that it can support Member States more effectivelyon the ground. The Council and the European Parliament have advanced quickly on this file and I am hopeful that we can reach a deal very soon.
Our citizens see the Schengen area as one of the EU’s greatest achievements, and it is our job to preserve this achievement. We cannot continue prolonging internal border controls endlessly. We are ready to discuss innovative solutions and overcome any existing tensions.
This is about working in a spirit of trust on a quintessential achievement of the European project. Schengen can and should adapt – but not at the expense of its essence: the absence of internal border controls and free movement.
And I have said this many times before: a strong and secure Schengen is also an inclusive Schengen. I call on Member States to move forward so that Romania and Bulgaria can join Schengen; and Croatia too once all conditions are fulfilled.
Finally, our citizens expect from us a Union that genuinely protects them. We have done a lot to close down the space in which terrorists and criminals operate, deny them the money and the means to act, and ensure that cyberspace is safe.
Today we had a very fruitful discussion on the present and future of our counter-terrorism policy. And just two days ago, we reached a historic agreement to make all our information systems interoperable.
This means that very soon no criminal or terrorist suspect should be able to slip through the net anymore with fake identities.
Our border guards, police officers and immigration officials will have the information they need to do their job.
For this achievement, I am grateful to the Romanian Presidency for making it a top priority in the area of security.
Beyond interoperability, we have a number of other important initiatives on the table in the area of security: explosives precursors,terrorist content online, access to financial information.
On all this we will work with the same determination with the co-legislators to deliver to adoption before the May elections.
We also had an important discussion on how to best equip our law enforcement authorities to do their job in the digital age.
This is about the ability to analyse and understand data, but it is also about learning, about using skills and tools to work together as one, in a genuine and effective Security Union – where security is not only a national issue, but also a European issue.
I am glad to see that the Romanian Presidency shares all these priorities with us and I look forward to working with them, and most importantly to deliver.