Brussels, 22 September 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last week at the end of the Home Affairs Council, I clearly said that the Commission would leave no stone unturned to put in place the common European responses that are needed for tackling the refugee crisis.
Together with the excellent teamwork of the Luxembourgish Presidency,
I am happy that the Member States have adopted the decision to relocate 120.000 refugees in less than 3 weeks after we made the proposal.
Together with 40.000 from last week's Council decision, we are now able to relocate a total of 160.000 refugees from Member States that are under pressure.
This is an historic moment for migration policy at European level.
Specifically, 106.000 people will be relocated from Italy and Greece and I expect the process to start already in the coming weeks.
The remaining 54.000 will be reassigned to Italy and Greece if in the next 12 months the situation changes, they could go to other Member States based on a Commission proposal.
Now that we agreed on the numbers, we will ensure swift implementation of our plans in close coordination with the national authorities and the EU Agencies Frontex, Europol, and EASO.
We still have some technical details to sort out but we are all aware of the urgency of the situation and we will act swiftly. We must not lose any more time.
But today's agreement is a two way street: we ask from Member States that will benefit from these measures to use this opportunity in order to reinforce and improve their national asylum systems, especially in the areas of fingerprinting, border management and surveillance.
Here, the new Hotspot approach which was designed by the European Commission will be of great help.
I am very pleased with the support Member States have shown today to this innovative tool during the Council's debate.
We are ready to deploy hotspots to Italy, where everything is set for them to become operational, and to Greece, where work to implement them will soon be completed.
Of course we are ready to provide help and assistance via hotspots to any Member State that needs them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, relocation and our hotspot approach are part of a more comprehensive package.
To address the refugee crisis, we need to move ahead with the complete roll out of the European Agenda on Migration.
The Commission is fully committed to implement the measures to support transit countries and find solutions in countries of origin.
To fight smuggling and to increase the return rates.
The refugee crisis won't be solved immediately, and is already affecting Europe as a whole – and beyond.
The magnitude of this crisis, with hundred thousand people fleeing war, persecution and oppression, makes it impossible to handle it in a fragmented and isolated way.
It also made it impossible and unacceptable to wait a single minute longer to take decisions.
This is why today's decision is a turning point: we have made an important step toward a European response based on common values and shared responsibilities.
I am confident that the European Council tomorrow will now build on this progress to give a strong political steer to speed up the implementation of the many other concrete actions and measures already agreed which will provide even more common responses to our common challenges.