Ahead of the EU member states discussions next week and again at end of August on combating refugee smuggling and preventing loss of lives in the Mediterranean, S&D Group president, Udo Bullman, stated:
“This summer will be remembered for the steep rise of deaths at sea in the central Mediterranean route and a steep decline in the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers in the EU. According to report by Amnesty International released yesterday, the EU is to be blamed for the deaths of 721 people at sea only in June and July this year. The closure of harbours by Italy has led to a disruption of patrolling and rescue operations, including EU missions and operations, and the EU cannot tolerate this further. People’s lives are at stake!
“Doing nothing or shifting responsibility is no longer an option! We need predictable, clear and cooperative arrangements accepted by all actors involved, namely the EU member states, African partners and NGOs. We need rules on search and rescue (SAR) and disembarkation, leading to accepted SAR areas in the Mediterranean accompanied by EU support measures at sea. NGO vessels must not be stopped from operating in this framework. The EU has a role to play and the European Commission and EEAS have put proposals on the table that all institutions need to discuss.
“But let’s be clear on this: clear rules at sea will not take away the need for solidarity and cooperation on land. Individual assessment of people’s cases, protection of those needing asylum, and returns in dignity of those who cannot claim asylum are major issues. Be it on EU soil or in facilities in third countries, we will be faced with the question: is the EU ready to shoulder together with partners the responsibility to protect people in distress as a global player or not? The answer to this question will tell our citizens a lot about the EU’s added value ahead of the European Parliament elections in 2019.
“We need to face the truth! EU policy solutions on migration revolve around solidarity: a core value of the EU and a defining element of our European identity. In a decisive moment in the EU’s history, as the 2019 elections will be, we need to prove to EU citizens that we can deliver. This is why we must have a broader political debate on EU internal solidarity. It has to be about migration, cohesion and energy security – a discussion uniting and not dividing East and West, North and South. We need a new solidarity covenant.
“Lastly, let’s speak the truth loud and clear: no country can manage migration and asylum alone. Who claims it, lies to the public. We need to do it together, at EU level and in partnership with countries of transit and origin. This is why the UN Global Compact for migration and asylum are so important.
“Legal migration must get back into the EU migration debate. EU needs controlled, regular migration pathways, based on the needs of national labour markets. We need to assess with our African partners how to open controlled legal ways to the EU, targeting youth and education, skilled or non-skilled labour, research and culture.
“This is not about imposing solutions in exchange for financial support. It is not about a transactional or conditional arrangement. It is about addressing common challenges in partnership. Supporting investment in Africa, in education, enterprise creation and democracy is an investment in global and EU resilience and security. This is a collective responsibility which the EU must accept, if it is to be considered a solid global power.”