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Schäuble’s proposal becomes a reality: High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe

Schäuble’s proposal becomes a reality: High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe

When the High-level Interparliamentary Conference on Migration and Asylum in Europe takes place on Thursday, 19 November 2020, it will make a reality of a pledge made by Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the German Bundestag. Schäuble had made clear from an early stage that addressing the consequences of global migration would be a focus of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. During a video conference in late May between the chairs of the parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag, the political groups in the European Parliament and the presidents of both parliaments, Schäuble had proposed holding a joint conference on this subject at the European Parliament in the autumn.

The proposal met with support from David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament. Sassoli said that it could be “relevant and useful” if common standards could be developed at the conference. He expressed his confidence that the conference could strengthen interparliamentary cooperation and also develop concrete approaches to solving the migration crisis.

Schäuble: “We need to finally make progress on this key issue!”

The proposal was also discussed at a virtual meeting in early July with the College of Commissioners, headed by its German President, Dr Ursula von der Leyen. Europe is divided on the issue of migration, the President of the Bundestag said during the virtual meeting. “It is therefore important to promote understanding of other positions in the member states, as part of a broad debate. Who, if not the national parliaments, is in a position to facilitate this? We need to finally make progress on this key issue!” Schäuble said.

Now the time has come to see whether progress can be achieved. The “high-level” conference will live up to its name, featuring many high-level participants. The conference – which can be watched as a livestream at www.parleu2020.de – will be opened from 10.00 with addresses by the President of the Bundestag, his counterpart from the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the Commission. Dr Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues, the President of the Portuguese Parliament, and Igor Zorčič, the President of the Slovenian National Assembly, will also speak. They are representing the other countries which are part of the Trio Presidency alongside Germany, namely Portugal and Slovenia.

Panel discussion on the subject of “Managing asylum and migration together”

After the opening addresses, from 10.45, a panel discussion is planned on the subject of “Managing asylum and migration together”. The Q&A with selected members of national parliaments and the European Parliament will be moderated by Schäuble, Sassoli and von der Leyen – together with Ylva Johansson, the EU Commissioner with responsibility for migration, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Professor António Vitorino, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration.

Federal Interior Minister Seehofer will speak as part of the first round table

From 14.00, following a break for lunch, three virtual round tables will take place to discuss specific topics. “Relationship between solidarity and responsibility in migration and asylum management” is the topic of the first round table, which will be co-chaired by Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and by Andrea Lindholz (CSU), Chair of the Bundestag’s Committee on Internal Affairs. The parliamentarians will be addressed by EU Commissioner Johansson and Horst Seehofer (CSU), Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior. The participants in the discussion will also include Dr Christos Christou, President of the organisation Médecins Sans Frontières, as well as Salvatore Martello, mayor of Lampedusa, and Stratis Kytelis, mayor of Lesbos, two islands which are particularly affected by migration.

The discussion will cover the following topics: sharing responsibility and respect of fundamental rights, addressing irregular migration and management of external borders, and implementing return decisions and ensuring coherence with the human rights policy of the EU.

Second round table: “External dimension – Shaping partnerships with third countries”

The second round table will focus on the subject of “External dimension – Shaping partnerships with third countries”. Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, will talk about this issue – as will Amira El Fadil, the African Union’s Commissioner for Social Affairs. David Miliband from the aid organisation International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Nicola Bay from the Danish Refugee Council have been invited as experts. The focus will be on the external dimension of asylum and migration “beyond existing principles”, the state of play regarding the development of comprehensive agreements with third countries, and the international approach “in times of crisis of multilateralism”.

Third round table: “Legal migration and integration”

The third round table will discuss the topic of “Legal migration and integration”. Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission for Promoting our European Way of Life, will give an introductory speech, as will Anne Spiegel (Alliance 90/The Greens), Minister for Family Affairs, Women, Youth, Integration and Consumer Protection of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate, representing the Bundesrat. Jens Hoffmann, CEO of the Swedish company Dipart, and Jennifer Bond from the Global Refugee Sponsorship Initiative will also take part in the discussion. The topics for discussion may include: addressing legal migration gaps; fostering well-managed mobility, for example via the EU Talent Pool; and promoting integration with adequate funding.

From 15.45, the round tables will present the results of their discussions, and then President Schäuble and President Sassoli will end the conference with their closing statements. Then it will be seen whether “progress on this key issue” is possible, as called for by the President of the Bundestag, and whether “approaches to solving the migration crisis” have been developed, as the President of the European Parliament hoped. (hau/17 November 2020)

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