Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Border and Coast Guard is a symbol for the European Union. A symbol of a Europe that is able to deliver, united.
A symbol of a Europe that is efficient in addressing the migration and security challenges we are facing in cooperation with our neighbours.
A symbol that we are jointly responsible to manage our common European external borders.
A symbol that we are determined to preserve our freedom of movement, without internal borders.
That’s why today is an historical day for the European Union.
First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Deputy Prime Minister Rumiana Bachvarova and the Bulgarian authorities for hosting today’s event.
I would also like to thank Fabrice Leggeri, Executive Director of Frontex, for his excellent work and collaboration so far.
Right here and right now, ladies and gentlemen, we officially launch the European Border and Coast Guard, both legally and operationally. It is an unprecedented achievement of European political will and union, in times where our unity is tested.
All those who have made it happen are here today: the Commission, the Parliament and the Member States in the Council, the Presidencies of the Netherlands and of Slovakia.
Thanks to our common work and commitment, the European Border and Coast Guard has now become a reality in less than 9 months since the European Commission proposed it.
The European citizens have demanded a tangible European response – and today we deliver it collectively.
The European Border and Coast Guard is based on the fundaments of solidarity and shared responsibility over the EU’s external borders. Legally and operationally, the external border of one Member State is the external border of ALL Member States.
Building on the work of FRONTEX we have substantially strengthened our new Agency. Let me at this point commend: the work of FRONTEX, of its Director Fabrice Leggeri and all its staff.
Also, the Border and Coast Guards of the frontline Member States and of the ones that responded to the calls for support.
Throughout all these months of the ongoing refugee crisis, these people have been working tirelessly and it is thanks to them that today we are in a much better situation than one year ago.
Today, I feel very proud to be surrounded by the European Border and Coast Guards. We equip them with what they need to bring the border management to a new level: By 2020, the Agency will include 1,000 staff members and will manage a budget of more than €320 million.
The Agency will also be able to activate a rapid reaction pool of at least 1,500 border guards and other relevant staff, as well as a pool of rapid reaction equipment.
These two pools will be made available to the Agency whenever needed to address urgent situations. With this innovation, we will resolve one of the main weaknesses of the current system.
We have also put in place a series of strong preventive measures in an effort to avoid exceptional situations like the ones we faced in 2015. The new Agency will closely monitor the management of the external borders by all Member States through the deployment of Liaison Officers and mandatory vulnerability assessments.
We are also expanding the role of the Agency in the field of return. In partnership with third countries, we will ensure that European cooperation on coast guard functions will be further developed, together with the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Fisheries Control Agency.
At the same time, we also include a stronger complaint mechanism that will guarantee the respect of fundamental rights of migrants.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now better equipped than before to face the migration and security challenges – which, I would like to stress, are global.
That is why the cooperation with our partners, and in particular with our neighbours in the region, is key.
I am therefore very glad to see representatives of Turkey here with us: the new Agency has also a reinforced mandate to cooperate with and support neighbouring countries.
The European Border and Coast Guard does not exist separately from the Member States, nor does it replace their responsibilities.
The European Border and Coast Guard exists for the Member States and through them.
That is why everyone must join in to operationalise and implement it as soon as possible. This work has already started but must be speeded up now.
We have shown what we can achieve when the European Union acts together, united, as one.
It is now our duty and responsibility to keep delivering in the same vein on all aspects of our comprehensive migration policy:
for our citizens,
for the Member States,
for partner countries
and of course, for those who arrive at our borders.
Thank you very much for you attention.