Speech by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the European Affairs Committee and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees of the Portuguese Parliament

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4 Jun 2015
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos

Dear Honorable Members,

é um prazer e honra estar aqui em Portugal. Muito obrigado pelo convite.

Let me first express my pleasure to be here today In front of the European Affairs Committee and the Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees of the Portuguese Parliament to discuss about a topic that affects us all: Migration. 

Last year, over 620.000 persons have asked for protection in Europe. 

The numbers for 2015 show that even that peak may be mild in comparison to the one we will record this year. 70,000 asylum applications are already lodged every month in the EU since the beginning of 2015. More than 6,000 migrants have reached the Italian shores over the last week-end.  

Portugal might not be confronted to the same migratory pressures that countries in the Mediterranean are facing, but I am sure you can understand the kind of challenges such inflows bear on the migration and asylum systems of those frontline Member States.

It is time we start being responsible about it. It is time we recognise that we need to act together in Europe. That is why we adopted the European Agenda on Migration that includes bold measures.

Let me give you an overview of the package we have put forward.

The first objective of the Agenda is to develop an immediate response, in order to deal with the pressure in the Mediterranean and save lives.

To this end, the new Operational Plan of Triton includes a significant number of additional assets, and extends its geographical scope. I would like to thank Portugal for its participation. This will help to save lives.

More importantly, we have also adopted measures to fight smuggling to intervene before migrants embark on a dangerous journey. A Common Security and Defence Policy mission will soon be launched to disenable networks of smugglers. 

We have also adopted an Action Plan on migrant smuggling. The plan will follow all major smuggling routes, from beginning to end. It will ensure that:

(i) migrants are informed,

(ii) data about the criminal networks is collected,

(iii) smugglers prosecuted and (iv)  their assets seized.

Cooperation with the countries of origin and transit will be essential to implement this plan. That is also why I recently visited Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.

Then, we have provided an answer to two fundamental questions.

The first question is:

"What do we do with those we rescue?"

In order to promote the fundamental values of humanity and solidarity on which this Union is built, we have, for the first time, triggered the emergency mechanism under Article 78 point 3 of the Treaty.

On this basis, we have proposed an emergency mechanism to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers. Syrians and Eritreans will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU Member States over a period of 2 years.

Let me be very clear:  what we are building today is not only an emergency response for the current pressure; it is an emergency mechanism to be applied in the future, wherever the pressure will emerge. Those who will help today will be those who may need help tomorrow. I think that this is what solidarity truly means in practice.

The second question is:

"What do we do with those that today use the smugglers in order to seek the protection they deserve?"

If we are serious in the fight against the smugglers to the point of going to the UN Security Council, we need to be equally serious in opening alternative and legal avenues to come to Europe. Again, this is an effort where Europe needs to act as one; with a common and consistent approach.

This is why the Commission has proposed a resettlement scheme to transfer 20.000 refugees to Europe from third countries, showing much needed solidarity with our neighbours who are already taking the brunt of the crisis in Syria and in Libya.

The Commission will make available 50 million euros in order to support the Member States.

These two mechanisms will be based on a distribution key developed according to objective and clear criteria. I'm ready to discuss about the criteria retained but let's be clear; we should not hide behind this discussion to do nothing.

Beyond the immediate actions, the European Agenda on Migration also responds to the more fundamental challenges that the European society faces.

It is an Agenda that looks at the medium to long term, in order to lead the way towards a truly common European Migration policy in the European Union.

In line with the priorities identified by President Juncker in the Political Guidelines, we have built around four key pillars:

1. Strengthening our capacity to fight irregular migration:

The Commission will reinforce the role of Frontex in return operations;

2. Protecting migrants in need of international protection:

the Commission will promote and monitor the full implementation of the Common European Asylum System and will take actions to fight abuses;

3. Strengthening the shared management of our external borders:

Frontex will be reinforced and more coherent standards will be developed;

4. The EU's demographic and skills needs mean that legal migration will be a necessary part of our future.

The Commission intends to develop a new policy on legal migration starting with the revision of the Blue Card directive.

The European agenda on Migration is based on a very simple principle.

Europe will extend a helping hand to those in need and will strive to attract those we need.

But this will be balanced by strong and targeted action for those who try to abuse our system.

As conclusion, the Agenda is about concrete actions and initiatives, which are realistic and can be implemented if we all take part consistently to this shared effort. It is a package.

Let me now turn to an equally important topic:  Security.

New and complex security threats have emerged during the last years, that are increasingly cross-border and cross-sectorial in nature. We cannot but face them together.

EU citizens expect us to trust each other, to share information and to work effectively together by taking concrete actions. This is why the Commission has presented in April the European Agenda on Security which should guide our actions for the next 5 years.

We have identified as priorities: terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime. The Agenda offers a number of concrete actions to effectively respond to these challenges.

But the Agenda is also adaptable to emerging threats. We will strengthen the 3 pillars which are the basis to respond to security threats:

(1) better information exchange;

(2) increased operational cooperation;

(3) more targeted support through training, funding, research and innovation.

It is through these actions that the EU gives added value to the work of Member States.

As I always say to the European Parliament, deep in my heart I always felt like a parliamentarian.

Your role, your support, for the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration and the European Agenda on Security is highly important not only in practice but also politically.

Muito obrigado!

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