Today, the College discussed our work on migration in all of its aspects and notably looking at the urgency of the situation along the Central Mediterranean Route.
Europe continues to face high migratory pressures. And Italy more than (almost) any others. The Commission is not discovering this issue now.
When President Juncker took office, he created the position of EU Migration Commissioner because he knew that migration had to be the number one priority for our mandate.
I was proud to take up that post and, since then, we have been working together on a European approach to deal with migration.
We are starting to see results and we are no longer in the same crisis situation as we were two years ago. But Italy still needs our support.
Last night, we addressed a letter to the Italian Prime Minister making clear that the Commission will not let up.
We are ready to immediately take any action the Italian government considers useful, including measures:
- to accelerate relocation;
- to mobilise additional emergency funding;
- and to deploy EU agency personnel to support the return and asylum process.
We have also set up a dedicated contact team for Italy to ensure rapid operational responses.
We are also continuing at full speed our work to engage with our partner countries to bring long-term solutions.
I was in Tunis on Monday, to meet with our North African partners to see how we can further cooperate. It was an extremely fruitful meeting, where we all agreed that the situation today is not an Italian problem, nor only a European problem, BUT one that has to be tackled on both sides of the Mediterranean.
I am happy to see that we should be able to restart negotiations with Tunisia on a readmission agreement in Autumn. And that Libya will soon be in a position to declare its Search and Rescue area, with the help of Italy and the EU.
These are important steps BUT to succeed going forward we will need all EU Member States to pitch in more.
This starts with the EU-Africa Trust Fund – we need more contributions for projects in Libya and North Africa. It cannot be that the EU managed to mobilise €2.6 billion out of the EU budget but that Member States can only raise a measly €200 million between them.
We see contributions starting to come in now, but the Member States need to get serious on this.
Let me turn now to relocation. The Commission’s latest relocation and resettlement report has some very good news.
Here we are finally starting to see proper solidarity. June was a record month for relocation with more people being relocated than ever before – almost 3,000 in a single month, bringing the total to over 24,000.
But there are still at least 5,000 people ready to be relocated in each Italy and Greece – with more still to be registered.
Our objective is and remains to ensure that the people eligible are relocated by end September 2017. It is feasible.
In any case, even if the relocation scheme ends in September BUT Member States’ legal obligations do not.
Member States will still have to relocate eligible candidates that arrive before the end of September.
The majority of Member States are making enormous efforts in a real European spirit. I welcome the announcement by Spain and Germany that they will increase or speed up the relocation path.
I know that some Member States (Finland, Lithuania and Luxembourg, Malta and Latvia) have already or will soon have relocated their allocation.
I would like to commend in particular Sweden that despite the high number of asylum seekers it received over the past years, will most probably manage to relocate more than 60 % of its allocation within 1 and a half months.
At the same time, I regret that other Member States continue to show no solidarity and to ignore our repeated calls to participate in this common effort.
That is why, the Commission sent today reasoned opinions to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland for non-compliance with their legal obligations on relocation.
This is the second stage in the Commission’s infringement procedures against these three Member States. In their reply, none of these Member States indicated that they would relocate a number of applicants swiftly to their territory. None of the arguments they put forward justify that they do not implement the relocation decision.
In this context, I also welcome the opinion of the Advocate General issued today. He confirms that the relocation decisions are proportionate measures to alleviate the burden on Greece and Italy.
But let’s be clear that the door is still open. If these Member States decide to change position, we are ready to work with them to address their concerns.
Finally, resettlement continues to be a success story. 17,179 people have been resettled to 22 States out of the 22,504 of the agreed resettlements.
Efforts remain uneven, however. A number of Member States have still not resettled a single person yet.
I call on these Member States to deliver on their commitments. Resettlement is a key feature of our external policy and we encourage Member States to pledge more places for resettlement also from North Africa.
The EU will continue to support these efforts, mobilising €10,000 for every person resettled.
This is crucial to our work in managing the situation in the central Mediterranean. This is how we replace dangerous, illegal crossings, with safe, legal pathways.
I am confident that together we can prove equal to the challenge of migration.
More than that, if we work together, I am convinced that we can reap the benefits.