Σάββατο, 12 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Jean-Claude Juncker | State of the Union 2015

In a European Commission speech, Jean-Claude Juncker today underlined the situation the refugee crisis, in a particularly interesting way. The roots of his arguments are clearly political, with historical comparison that take Europe 400 - 600 years back, but underlines the historical instance this crisis sets. I found the speech deeply concerned and informed. Thus I place it here as a reminder, that we sometimes have to listen to the verbal parameters set by policy-makers and not the "just what's news" presentation of the Media. This speech doesn't reveal juncker as the great politician he really is; it conglomerates the European policies within an indiegenous context and spirit its conjured today.

"Since the beginning of the year, nearly 500,000 people have made their way to Europe. The vast majority of them are fleeing from war in Syria, the terror of the Islamic State in Libya or dictatorship in Eritrea. The most affected Member States are Greece, with over 213,000 refugees, Hungary, with over 145,000, and Italy, with over 115,000.

The numbers are impressive. For some they are frightening. But now is not the time to take fright. It is time for bold, determined and concerted action by the European Union, by its institutions and by all its Member States.

This is first of all a matter of humanity and of human dignity. And for Europe it is also a matter of historical fairness.

We Europeans should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee. Our common history is marked by millions of Europeans fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship, or oppression.

Huguenots fleeing from France in the 17th century. Jews, Sinti, Roma and many others fleeing from Germany during the Nazi horror of the 1930s and 1940s. Spanish republicans fleeing to refugee camps in southern France at the end of the 1930s after their defeat in the Civil War. Hungarian revolutionaries fleeing to Austria after their uprising against communist rule was oppressed by Soviet tanks in 1956. Czech and Slovak citizens seeking exile in other European countries after the oppression of the Prague Spring in 1968.

Hundreds and thousands were forced to flee from their homes after the Yugoslav wars.

Have we forgotten that there is a reason there are more McDonalds living in the U.S. than there are in Scotland? That there is a reason the number of O'Neills and Murphys in the U.S. exceeds by far those living in Ireland?

Have we forgotten that 20 million people of Polish ancestry live outside Poland, as a result of political and economic emigration after the many border shifts, forced expulsions and resettlements during Poland’s often painful history?

Have we really forgotten that after the devastation of the Second World War, 60 million people were refugees in Europe? That as a result of this terrible European experience, a global protection regime – the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees – was established to grant refuge to those who jumped the walls in Europe to escape from war and totalitarian oppression?

We Europeans should know and should never forget why giving refuge and complying with the fundamental right to asylum is so important.




I have said in the past that we are too seldom proud of our European heritage and our European project. Yet, in spite of our fragility, our self-perceived weaknesses, today it is Europe that is sought as a place of refuge and exile.

It is Europe today that represents a beacon of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. That is something to be proud of and not something to fear. Europe today, in spite of many differences amongst its Member States, is by far the wealthiest and most stable continent in the world. We have the means to help those fleeing from war, terror and oppression. I know that many now will want to say that this is all very well, but Europe cannot take everybody. It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery of the world. But let us be honest and put things into perspective. There is certainly an important and unprecedented number of refugees coming to Europe at the moment. However, they still represent just 0.11% of the total EU population. In Lebanon, refugees represent 25% of the population. And this in a country where people have only one fifth of the wealth we enjoy in the European Union. Let us also be clear and honest with our often worried citizens: as long as there is war in Syria and terror in Libya, the refugee crisis will not simply go away. We can build walls, we can build fences. But imagine for a second it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you. There is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no border you would not cross if it is war or the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing. So it is high time to act to manage the refugee crisis. There is no alternative to this.

There has been a lot finger pointing in the past weeks. Member States have accused each other of not doing enough or of doing the wrong thing. And more often than not fingers have been pointed from national capitals towards Brussels.


We could all be angry about this blame-game. But I wonder who that would serve. Being angry does not help anyone. And the attempt of blaming others is often just a sign that politicians are overwhelmed by unexpected events. Instead, we should rather recall what has been agreed that can help in the current situation. It is time to look at what is on the table and move swiftly forwards. We are not starting anew. Since the early 2000s, the Commission has persistently tabled legislation after legislation, to build a Common European Asylum System. And the Parliament and the Council have enacted this legislation, piece by piece. The last piece of legislation entered into force just in July 2015. Across Europe we now have common standards for the way we receive asylum seekers, in respect of their dignity, for the way we process their asylum applications, and we have common criteria which our independent justice systems use to determine whether someone is entitled to international protection. But these standards need to be implemented and respected in practice. And this is clearly not yet the case, we can see this every day on television. Before the summer, the Commission had to start a first series of 32 infringement proceedings to remind Member States of what they had previously agreed to do. And a second series will follow in the days to come. European laws must be applied by all Member States – this must be self-evident in a Union based on the rule of law. Common asylum standards are important, but not enough to cope with the current refugee crisis. The Commission, the Parliament and the Council said this in spring. The Commission tabled a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration in May. And it would be dishonest to say that nothing has happened since then. We tripled our presence at sea. Over 122,000 lives have been saved since then. Every life lost is one too many, but many more have been rescued that would have been lost otherwise – an increase of 250%. 29 Member States and Schengen Associated countries are participating in the joint operations coordinated by Frontex in Italy, Greece and Hungary. 102 guest officers from 20 countries; 31 ships; 3 helicopters; 4 fixed wing aircrafts; 8 patrol cars, 6 thermos-vision vehicles and 4 transport vehicles – that is a first measure of European solidarity in action, even though more will have to be done. We have redoubled our efforts to tackle smugglers and dismantle human trafficker groups. Cheap ships are now harder to come by, leading to less people putting their lives in peril in rickety, unseaworthy boats. As a result, the Central Mediterranean route has stabilised at around 115,000 arriving during the month of August, the same as last year. We now need to achieve a similar stabilisation of the Balkans route, which has clearly been neglected by all policy-makers. The European Union is also the number one donor in the global efforts to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis. Around €4 billion have been mobilised by the European Commission and Member States in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance to Syrians in their country and to refugees and their host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. Indeed just today we launched two new projects to provide schooling and food security to 240,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey. We have collectively committed to resettling over 22,000 people from outside of Europe over the next year, showing solidarity with our neighbours. Of course, this remains very modest in comparison to the Herculean efforts undertaken by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, who are hosting over 4 million Syrian refugees. I am encouraged that some Member States are showing their willingness to significantly step up our European resettlement efforts. This will allow us very soon to come forward with a structured system to pool European resettlement efforts more systematically. Where Europe has clearly under-delivered, is on common solidarity with regard to the refugees who have arrived on our territory. To me, it is clear that the Member States where most refugees first arrive – at the moment, these are Italy, Greece and Hungary – cannot be left alone to cope with this challenge. This is why the Commission already proposed an emergency mechanism in May, to relocate initially 40,000 people seeking international protection from Italy and Greece. And this is why today we are proposing a second emergency mechanism to relocate a further 120,000 from Italy, Greece and Hungary. This requires a strong effort in European solidarity. Before the summer, we did not receive the backing from Member States I had hoped for. But I see that the mood is turning. And I believe it is high time for this. I call on Member States to adopt the Commission proposals on the emergency relocation of altogether 160,000 refugees at the Extraordinary Council of Interior Ministers on 14 September. We now need immediate action. We cannot leave Italy, Greece and Hungary to fare alone. Just as we would not leave any other EU Member State alone. For if it is Syria and Libya people are fleeing from today, it could just as easily be Ukraine tomorrow. Europe has made make the mistake in the past of distinguishing between Jews, Christians, Muslims. There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees. Do not underestimate the urgency. Do not underestimate our imperative to act. Winter is approaching – think of the families sleeping in parks and railway stations in Budapest, in tents in Traiskirchen, or on shores in Kos. What we will become of them on cold, winter nights? Of course, relocation alone will not solve the issue. It is true that we also need to separate better those who are in clear need of international protection and are therefore very likely to apply for asylum successfully; and those who are leaving their country for other reasons which do not fall under the right of asylum. This is why today the Commission is proposing a common EU list of safe countries of origin. This list will enable Member States to fast track asylum procedures for nationals of countries that are presumed safe to live in. This presumption of safety must in our view certainly apply to all countries which the European Council unanimously decided meet the basic Copenhagen criteria for EU membership – notably as regards democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. It should also apply to the other potential candidate countries on the Western Balkans, in view of their progress made towards candidate status. I am of course aware that the list of safe countries is only a procedural simplification. It cannot take away the fundamental right of asylum for asylum seekers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. But it allows national authorities to focus on those refugees which are much more likely to be granted asylum, notably those from Syria. And this focus is very much needed in the current situation. I also believe that beyond the immediate action needed to address current emergencies, it is time we prepare a more fundamental change in the way we deal with asylum applications – and notably the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry. We need more Europe in our asylum policy. We need more Union in our refugee policy. A true European refugee and asylum policy requires solidarity to be permanently anchored in our policy approach and our rules. This is why, today, the Commission is also proposing a permanent relocation mechanism, which will allow us to deal with crisis situations more swiftly in the future. A common refugee and asylum policy requires further approximation of asylum policies after refugee status is granted. Member States need to take a second look at their support, integration and inclusion policies. The Commission is ready to look into how EU Funds can support these efforts. And I am strongly in favour of allowing asylum seekers to work and earn their own money whilst their applications are being processed. A united refugee and asylum policy also requires stronger joint efforts to secure our external borders. Fortunately, we have given up border controls between the Member States of the Schengen area, to guarantee free movement of people, a unique symbol of European integration. But the other side of the coin to free movement is that we must work together more closely to manage our external borders. This is what our citizens expect. 

The Commission said it back in May, and I said it during my election campaign: We need to strengthen Frontex significantly and develop it into a fully operational European border and coast guard system. It is certainly feasible. But it will cost money. The Commission believes this is money well invested. This is why we will propose ambitious steps towards a European Border and Coast Guard before the end of the year. A truly united, European migration policy also means that we need to look into opening legal channels for migration. Let us be clear: this will not help in addressing the current refugee crisis. But if there are more, safe and controlled roads opened to Europe, we can manage migration better and make the illegal work of human traffickers less attractive. Let us not forget, we are an ageing continent in demographic decline. We will be needing talent. Over time, migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well-managed resource. To this end, the Commission will come forward with a well-designed legal migration package in early 2016. A lasting solution will only come if we address the root causes, the reasons why we are currently facing this important refugee crisis. Our European foreign policy must be more assertive. We can no longer afford to be ignorant or disunited with regard to war or instability right in our neighbourhood. In Libya, the EU and our Member States need to do more to engage with regional partners to make sure a Government of National Accord is in place soon. We should be prepared to help, with all EU instruments available, such a government to deliver security and services to the population as soon as it is in place. Our EU development and humanitarian support will have to be immediate and comprehensive. I would also like to point out that we are entering the fifth year of the Syrian crisis with no end in sight. So far, the international community has failed the Syrian people. Europe has failed the Syrian people. Today I call for a European diplomatic offensive to address the crises in Syria and in Libya. We need a stronger Europe when it comes to foreign policy. And I am very glad that Federica Mogherini, our determined High Representative, has prepared the ground for such an initiative with her diplomatic success in the Iran nuclear talks. And that she stands ready to work closely together with our Member States towards peace and stability in Syria and Libya. To facilitate Federica’s work, today the Commission is proposing to establish an emergency Trust Fund, starting with €1.8 billion from our common EU financial means to address the crises in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, the Horn of Africa, and the North of Africa. We want to help create lasting stability, for instance by creating employment opportunities in local communities, and thereby address the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and illegal migration. I expect all EU Member States to pitch in and match our ambitions. I do not want to create any illusions that the refugee crisis will be over any time soon. It will not. But pushing back boats from piers, setting fire to refugee camps, or turning a blind eye to poor and helpless people: that is not Europe. Europe is the baker in Kos who gives away his bread to hungry and weary souls. Europe is the students in Munich and in Passau who bring clothes for the new arrivals at the train station. Europe is the policeman in Austria who welcomes exhausted refugees upon crossing the border. This is the Europe I want to live in. The crisis is stark and the journey is still long. I am counting on you, in this House, and on all Member States to show European courage going forward, in line with our common values and our history".

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