Statement by Commissioner D. Avramopoulos at the Foreign Affairs (AFET), Human Rights (DROI), Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committees

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15 Sep 2015
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos

Honourable Members,

As you know, our neighbourhood is on fire and the situation is expected to continue in the foreseeable future.

This problem is not about money or about figures. It's about human dignity, about respect of human beings, about the values and principles that Europe has been built on.

Our response to the refugee crisis will define our history as Europeans.

This is crash test for Europe. Α crash-test for our values.

I am well aware of the specific attention your Committees and the Parliament pay to the respect of migrants’ fundamental rights including, in particular, to the right to asylum.

The many heated political debates in this House but also in the Council helped us to make progress.

These debates are very different at national level in many Member States.

They are also different in the Council, as you well know.

This is the way Europe works, or does not work.

I was disappointed with yesterday's outcome but the Commission is determined, I am determined, and we will move ahead.

The world is watching us.

It is time for each and every one to take their responsibility.

Our response to the migratory crisis – the European Agenda on Migration - has already saved human lives.

Over 110.000 people have been saved through the strengthened Triton and Poseidon operations.

This shows that results are possible when we act in a united and coordinated way.

Let me give you a few more concrete examples.

The first hotspots are being set up and will become operational shortly. An operational meeting will be organised this week following the formal adoption of the Council Decision.

The first relocations can start immediately. The first resettlements can also start immediately.

Our proposals aim to ensure that the right to asylum is fully respected across the European Union.

We have put forward a new proposal for relocation. In total, it is therefore 160.000 persons in need of international protection that we are seeking to relocate and give them a new place to live, where they will be safe and free.

Priority will also be given to particularly vulnerable applicants, as stated in the draft Council Decision.

On top of this, the Commission is proposing a permanent relocation mechanism, so that the right to asylum can be enforced more quickly in future crises.

This time, the Parliament will be fully involved in the negotiations as co-legislator.

The EU list of Safe Countries of Origin we are proposing will alleviate the pressure on Member States’ national asylum systems by helping them focus on the applicants that are genuinely in need of international protection.

The existing acquis, and in particular the Return Directive, place on the Member States the legal obligation to take all necessary steps to ensure effective return of those who have no right to stay.

Currently, less than 40% of those who are issued with a return order effectively return to their countries of origin.

The EU Action Plan on return outlines the short and mid-term measures to be taken to enhance the effectiveness of the EU return system in full respect of all human rights standards.

This includes the principle of non-refoulement.

Basic rights such as family unity and emergency healthcare are guaranteed by the Return Directive.

I would also like to point out that if we are to be successful in our endeavours and achieve a lasting solution, we need to continue reinforcing cooperation with our third countries.

Now, let me shortly refer to yesterday's meeting:

As I said, I am disappointed, even though progress was made.

There was a willingness of the majority of Member States to move forward towards an agreement on relocating another 120,000 people in clear need of international protection.

The Council has also decided to significantly and immediately increase the EU's financial support to Syria and its neighbouring countries.

To make the long story short: we didn't have the deal we wanted, but we will come back and try again.

And as say often: I count on your support.

We have to do more and we have to do it all together.

If we fail, it will not be the institutions that will fail.

It will be Europe that fails.

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