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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Remarks of Commissioner Avramopoulos after the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 July 2015

Brussels, 20 July 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In today's Council we achieved many important results. Our policy on migration is moving ahead.

Before I explain the details, I would like once again to thank Jean Asselborn and the Luxembourgish Presidency for the excellent work and fruitful cooperation.

In just a few weeks we managed to achieve a lot.

On resettlement, we got the result we were looking for. Thanks to the generous pledges of the Member States and the Schengen Associated States, we have an agreement on the resettlement of 22,504 refugees in need of protection from outside of Europe. This is the highest number ever achieved.

On the relocation of 40,000 people in clear need of international protection within the EU, we are almost there.

Member States adopted a resolution that confirms the overall figure of 40,000 and they have so far pledged for 32,256 places. The remaining 7,744 will be allocated by December 2015.

Given that the pledges for resettlement are more than 20,000, we agreed on the principle that additional resettlement places will transferred to relocation.

It is clear Member States must deliver on the promises made at the European Council last month, to reach the agreed figure of 40,000 persons proposed by the Commission.

I am disappointed that this did not happen today but it was a very important step forward.

This shows that a voluntary scheme is difficult to implement. We would have preferred the use of the proposed redistribution key.

That is why the Commission will put forward later this year a proposal for a fixed emergency system, to address future emergencies.

Solidarity is one of the basic principles of the European Union. It is both a moral and a legal commitment to ensure that Member States stand by each other in times of need.

During the meeting, I strongly urged the Member States to make a final effort in order to reach the 40,000 figure.

Though it may be difficult not to feel disappointed, we should not underestimate the important and historical step forward we have taken.

For many Member States, it will be the first time they will participate in resettlement efforts.

And this is the first time in the history of European migration policy that relocation efforts will be undertaken.

Moreover, today's decisions will allow for the timely implementation of the resettlement and relocation schemes.

Even if the attention is on resettlement and relocation, we should not forget that they are only part of a broader package of measures that will allow Europe to address the ongoing migratory challenges.

We now have the “Hotspots”. The Commission presented the roadmap for Italy and Greece, which explains how the “Hotspots” approach will be implemented.

This new approach offers a coordinated platform for EU Agencies – notably EASO, Frontex and Europol – to intervene rapidly at Europe’s external borders – in this case, Italy and Greece.

We will also offer assistance on return operations. Frontex will bring immediate support to frontline Member States on returns. We will propose for 2016 a higher dedicated budget of €16.2 million to make sure the Agency plays a key role in increasing the return of illegal migrants.

We also made progress on "safe countries of origin", which will help alleviate the burden on the asylum procedures of many Member States.

Our guidelines on fingerprinting newly arrived applicants for international protection were also endorsed. Member States also committed to instruct their respective national authorities to follow these guidelines.

Moreover, l would like to point out that as of midnight today the Common European Asylum System will be complete – giving the European Union the highest asylum standards worldwide. Now, we have to ensure that the system is fully implemented.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the last few months, we have achieved more than we have done in the past decade.

Two months ago, when presenting the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission committed to putting in place a comprehensive approach on migration.

I am glad to see that our proposals have produced tangible results.

We still have work ahead of us, but today's progress should not be underestimated.

I trust now that Member States will take the final step to complete the pledges on relocation.

Thank you.


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