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Wolfgang Schäuble and David-Maria Sassoli draw a positive conclusion from the Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe

The President of the European Parliament, David-Maria Sassoli, drew a positive conclusion from the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe of Thursday, 19 November 2020, declaring it a success. At the same time, he hoped that the Conference would just be a start and lead to further and closer interparliamentary cooperation on the major issues of migration and asylum. 

Following the morning’s panel discussion with Dr Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, David-Maria Sassoli, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the Bundestag, and Professor António Vitorino, Director-General of the International Organization for Migration, the first 90 minutes of the afternoon session saw three round tables discussing various key issues. The first round table was devoted to the relationship between solidarity and responsibility in the management of migration and asylum, and its findings were presented afterwards by co-chair Andrea Lindholz (CSU), who chairs the Bundestag Committee on Internal Affairs. In spite of wide differences between the outlooks and experiences of the representatives from the various member states, Ms Lindholz noted, they clearly shared a great interest in ending the stalemate of recent years and in reaching solutions together. “We are convinced of the urgent need for substantive progress in the negotiations”, she said, adding that all reform efforts must, however, be measured against the yardstick of fundamental rights. Humanity and respect for those who sought protection, she said, were also non-negotiable.

Fair sharing and clear division of responsibilities between member states

The need for a certain degree of mandatory European solidarity in the management of migration, said Andrea Lindholz, was acknowledged by many, but the concept had to be more precisely defined. Responsibilities, moreover, had to be fairly shared and clearly divided among member states. What was crucial, in the view of Ms Lindholz, was that pre-entry application procedures at the borders of the EU must be compliant with the law but also practicable. There was a need, she said, to eliminate any incentive for “secondary migration” to countries that were not responsible for providing refuge. There were also questions to be asked regarding the return of unsuccessful asylum seekers. “Our policy will not be credible”, the CSU Bundestag member said, “unless we afford protection to those who need it and return those who have no claim to protection”.

Cooperating with Africa in the realm of migration

Marie Arena, MEP, spoke about the work of the second round table, where the subject of discussion had been External dimension – shaping partnerships with third countries. It had emerged clearly, said Ms Arena, that cooperation between the EU and the neighbouring continent of Africa should focus not only on economics and development policy but also on the question of migration. What was needed, she said, was an approach based on partnership and mutual trust. She pointed out that Amira El Fadil, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union, had indicated that the coronavirus epidemic would also have implications for migration. The aim, said Ms Arena, must be to create legal channels and take action against people-smugglers and human traffickers.

More extensive integration measures

Luís Capoulas Santos, a Member of the Portuguese Parliament, presented the findings of the third round table, dedicated to legal migration and integration. There was agreement round the table, he said, that labour migration must be possible “to fill gaps in our labour markets”. More extensive integration measures were also important, he said. A proposal for a legislative framework on this subject was pending and was due for completion in 2021. The Blue Card Directive was part of this framework, said Mr Capoulas Santos.

Wolfgang Schäuble: a truly European task, but one that we can accomplish

In his closing words, Bundestag President Dr Wolfgang Schäuble made it clear that the refugee question was the one that was crying out loudest for a common set of European rules. It was a truly European task “but one that we can accomplish” was his confident assessment. The President of the Bundestag also stressed the role of parliaments in this context. In view of the differing and sometimes dissenting tendencies in the EU, parliamentarians had to be the transmission belts that explained to the public “that we have this task because Europe cannot otherwise have a bright future”. He acknowledged that there was no perfect solution. Only with a greater degree of willingness to meet this challenge, however, would Europe be able, now and in the future, to live under the rule of law in freedom, economic prosperity and social security. (hau/19 November 2020)

The report on the first session of the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe can be read here.

Recording of the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe on 19 November 2020

00:03:59

Film of the "High-Level Interparliamentary Conference on migration and asylum in Europe"

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Recording of the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe on 19 November 2020

00:03:59

Film of the "High-Level Interparliamentary Conference on migration and asylum in Europe"

00:01:04

Andrea Lindholz at the "High-Level Interparliamentary Conference on migration and asylum in Europe"

00:01:43

Lars Castellucci at the "High-Level Interparliamentary Conference on migration and asylum in Europe"

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