8 October 2015

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President, François Hollande appeared together before the European Parliament in Strasbourg this week to deliver a call for European Union countries to act together in dealing with the challenges currently faced by the Union, particularly the rise in numbers of people seeking international protection.

With Merkel acknowledging that the number of refugees was ‘a test of historic proportions’, the Chancellor called for these people to be allowed a ‘dignified life’. Branding the current Dublin process ‘obsolete’ (the system that attributes responsibility for processing an asylum application to a Member State), both leaders called for greater European solidarity to help frontline European countries such as Italy and Greece to deal with the increases of refugees entering their territories. They agreed that this could be best achieved by addressing the root causes of the refugee flows and helping those countries in the Middle East who are harbouring the largest numbers of refugees. With this in mind, Merkel and Hollande called for Europe to work more closely with Turkey, and for Turkey to give refugees the right to work in order to support their lives and their families. 

Invoking the words of the former French President François Mitterrand, ‘le nationalisme c’est la guerre’ (nationalism is war), Hollande appealed for EU Member States to not retreat from the shared European project, and to confront the current economic, social and humanitarian crises together. The president implored Member States to reinforce the Schengen area, saying that questioning the free movement of people and returning to internal borders would be a tragic error, while also suggesting that Europe needs to better control its external borders. Hollande said that the EU must define a more coherent asylum policy, including a list of safe countries of origin, the alignment of procedures and the harmonisation of the rights and conditions given to beneficiaries of international protection.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 9 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.