11 September 2015

In his first State of the European Union to the European Parliament, European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted the necessity of managing the unfolding refugee crisis that Europe is currently witnessing.

Acknowledging the important steps taken so far, such as the European Agenda on Migration in May providing for the relocation of initially 40,000 people seeking international protection from Italy and Greece, he noted the need for further action in view of the “impressive” numbers of people making their way to Europe. He mentioned “It is time for bold, determined and concerted action by the European Union, by its institutions and by all its Member States.

He called upon European solidarity in order for Member States to support countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary that are receiving the highest numbers of refugees. Therefore, he proposed a second emergency mechanism to relocate a further 120,000 from the three countries, raising the number to 160,000 refugees redistributed under a compulsory scheme. In addition, he proposed a common EU list of safe countries of origin in order to easily identify people in need of international protection, thus enabling Member States to fast track asylum procedures for nationals of countries that are considered to be safe to live in.

He also called for a review of the Dublin system and expressed his opinion in favour of allowing asylum seekers to work while their applications are being processed. He then called on Member States to re-examine their integration and inclusion policies.

Juncker also highlighted that a common refugee and asylum policy requires stronger efforts for securing EU’s external borders, by strengthening Frontex as well as opening legal channels for migration, therefore making the illegal services of smugglers less attractive.

He concluded by pointing out the need of addressing the root causes of the current refugee crisis, namely the war and instability in the neighbouring to Europe countries. To this end, he announced the Commission’s proposal of establishing 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.

“With his State of the Union address, President Juncker’s joins ECRE and other NGOs who have been saying that Europe cannot turn its back on people fleeing from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq, Eritrea or Afghanistan. He also opens the door for additional channels for refugees to reach Europe in a safe and legal manner, which has been long standing demand from our side. It is now in the hands of the Member States to show solidarity and a real union within the EU,” said Michael Diedring, ECRE’s Secretary General.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 September 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.