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EU Commissioner for Home Affairs
The Future of Home Affairs: an Open and Secure Europe
Press Conference, European Parliament
Strasbourg, 11 March 2014
When I took office as EU Commissioner for Home Affairs in 2009, an ambitious agenda was set out by the Stockholm program.
Now, almost five years later, we can be proud of what has been achieved to make Europe more open, more protective and more secure.
A Common European Asylum System is now in place and we have improved standards for those coming to Europe to seek protection from persecution and violence.
We have reinforced the governance of the Schengen zone and guaranteed free movement within this area without controls at internal borders. Schengen is one of the most tangible achievements of the European Union and one of those most cherished by European citizens.
We have abolished visa requirements for a number of countries, such as the countries of the Western Balkans, Brazil, Taiwan and have strengthened our ties with countries in our direct neighborhood.
We have launched a visa dialogue and signed a readmission agreement with Turkey and Mobility Partnerships have been agreed with Tunisia, Morocco, Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia.
We have developed common tools to improve the protection of European societies and economies from serious and organized crime.
We have put in place effective policies and legislation in the fight against trafficking in human beings to better protect victims and making it easier to prosecute criminals.
New European rules and sanctions are in place to prevent and fight child sexual abuse. We have managed to set up a Global Alliance against pedopornography, currently consisting of 52 states worldwide.
We have introduced tough new measures to combat the growing threat of cybercrime. We set up the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and brought in EU legislation to deal more efficiently with the growing number of cyber-attacks, including by outlawing the use, sale and production of botnets.
We have produced the first ever EU anti-corruption report to support efforts to fight corruption in Member States, and we have taken important steps to improve the EU rules on the confiscation of mafias assets.
To combat growing extremism in Europe, the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN), consisting of around 700 European practitioners was set up.
So, important steps have been taken in areas that are close to all European citizens. But the work is not over.
While there is a need to implement the agreed legislation and consolidate the existing framework, the European Union and its Member States will be confronted with new challenges.
For example, more people will want to come to Europe to work, as tourists, to study or to seek protection.
At the same time Europe will go through a phase of demographic change and serious shortages in its labor market, at a moment when competition for global talent is heating up.
If we want to attract talented individuals, we need to implement more flexible admission and visa policies for economic migrants.
We will be confronted with further instability in our neighborhood, such as the consequences of the Syrian conflict. Giving new impetus to resettlement and creating channels to grant protection outside of the EU territory are the way forward.
We must step up our efforts in order to avoid last year's tragic incident in Lampedusa from reoccurring. To this extent we have to better cooperate with countries of origin and transit of the migrants fostering e parallel approach to open new ways for legal migration while at the same time fighting together the criminal networks that are behind these deadly journeys.
Technology is moving fast, providing new opportunities for economic growth and changing the way we connect with each other. But these changes bring about new security challenges.
Globalization and the expansion of international trade allow organized crime to expand its activities. This is why we need to adapt to this growing challenge and find new ways to prevent organized crime from penetrating the legal market.
The answers we will give to the many challenges ahead of us will indicate the way forward for the area of Freedom, Security and Justice and will shape the Europe of tomorrow.
The Europe I would want is a Europe open to the world, welcoming students, researchers and others that bring the skills and talents we need to ensure our levels of prosperity. It is a Europe built on respect of fundamental rights that provides protection to those in need. It is a Europe that provides security to its citizens.
The Europe I would want is upholding its core values and is based on cooperation and effective solidarity. It is a Europe able to translate the concepts of solidarity and sharing of responsibility anchored in the Treaties, into concrete measures and activities. This requires Member States and European institutions to join forces and share their resources.
The European Council's guidelines on the future of the Freedom Security and Justice area will be decided in June at a time where euro-skeptics make their voices heard loudly and where nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise.
Let us hope that the Heads of States and Government will demonstrate political courage and give a clear signal that Europe will not compromise on its core values.
The European Union is an area of freedom, security and justice where democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights are upheld. We should look to safeguard these principles as we develop our policies for the coming years.