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Brussels, 24 May 2011

A credible, fair and effective EU migration policy: the way forward

The Commission is proposing a package of measures aimed at a better management of migration flows from the Southern Mediterranean region, as well as amendments to the Visa Regulation to ensure that visa free travel does not lead to abuse. Solidarity with the Member States most exposed to migratory pressures and stronger cooperation with third countries remain absolutely crucial.

"The situation in the Southern Mediterranean continues to call for EU action. The EU has taken a number of short term measures to assist North African countries in dealing with migratory pressures and to support the Member States on the frontline, ensuring a coherent EU response to those who need our help. What I propose today looks beyond the urgent needs. Our plan is to develop a more structured cooperation with the North African countries. It is in the interest of both the EU and the countries of North Africa to promote mobility and well-managed migration. Europe will be increasingly dependent on labour migration and the potential offered by North African countries should be seized in a mutually beneficial manner. We also need to make it easier for students, researchers and business people to visit other countries. To that end we need to open up more legal ways to Europe, by intensifying cooperation with our Southern neighbours, establishing clear rules and ensuring secure conditions that such movement meets the interests of all sides. We also need to make it easier for people to travel to the EU through further visa liberalisation. At the same time, we must make sure that our visa liberalisation agreements are not being abused. This is I why today I am proposing to introduce a safeguard clause for exceptional and very strict circumstances. I hope that this will help increase Member States' confidence and will to introduce more visa free regimes in the future", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Today's initiatives include:

- A Communication on a "Dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean countries".

The Commission proposes to establish Dialogues on Migration, Mobility and Security with the North African countries. The Dialogue should encompass all migration-related aspects of the EU's future relationship with the region. Mobility Partnerships will be agreed to better manage legal mobility opportunities between the EU and the North African countries. These partnerships will be tailor-made together with each partner country and in cooperation with EU Member States. They should help countries to make better use of their labour potential for instance by providing assistance in developing recruitment programs, skills recognition or by assisting the returned migrants who want to help building their country of origin. Such structured cooperation should also help Member States to match their labour market shortages.

Of course sufficient safeguards must be in place for the facilitation of movement. Within the Dialogue our partners will have to ensure that they will take all effective measures to prevent irregular migration and will allow for the return of their citizens who do not have the right to stay in Europe. The Commission has already made first contacts with Tunisia and Egypt in recent weeks to start these Dialogues, and hopes to engage with other interested partners in the near future.

- The Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010)

The Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum (2010) highlights the main developments at the EU and national levels in the field of migration last year. It points, for example, to the measures taken to assist Greece in managing its external frontiers, which involved the deployment by FRONTEX of border guards from other European countries on the Greek land border with Turkey, as well as the extensive assistance given to Greece by the Commission and Member States in the ongoing complete overhaul of the country's asylum system. To remedy the shortcomings identified, the Report contains political recommendations namely with regard to the strengthening of border control, the prevention of irregular migration, the facilitation of legal migration, the development of a common European asylum system, the integration of third country nationals, and the development of the external dimension of the EU's migration policy.

- A proposal to amend EU Regulation 539/2001 on visas

Visa Policy is a crucial component of an efficient European migration policy. The current EU legislation on visa policy does not allow for swift decision-making. The procedure for lifting or introducing visa obligations is done through the ordinary co-decision procedure and can therefore take up to a few years. The proposed amendments foresee the introduction of a safeguard clause that would allow, under certain exceptional conditions, for the temporary reintroduction of the visa requirement for citizens of a third country. Such a mechanism would provide the EU with a tool, to be used only in exceptional circumstances, for off-setting any possible serious adverse consequences of visa liberalisation, and in particular the arrival in the EU of a large number of irregular migrants or asylum seekers whose claims are not well-founded. The proposed amendments will help increasing the confidence of the Member States in the visa governance and future visa liberalisations.

Next steps

These initiatives are a first follow up to the Communication on Migration adopted on 4 May 2011. They will be discussed at the upcoming Justice and Home Affairs Council on 9 June 2011 and will help prepare the ground for a discussion on European asylum and migration policy between EU heads of state and government during the European Council in Brussels on 24 June 2011.

For more information

See MEMO/11/328, MEMO/11/329 and MEMO/11/330

More on the components of a wide ranging policy on migration (Commission's Communication on Migration of 4 May): IP/11/532 and MEMO/11/273

More on the European Commission's response to the migratory flows from North Africa: MEMO/11/226

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

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