I wish to thank Herbert Kickl and the Austrian Presidency for all the efforts they have put into steering discussions on migration and security throughout the last six months.
With the last Home Affairs Council before the end of the year, and only a few months ahead of the European elections, we have achieved important progress on several key files.
The Austrian Presidency was instrumental in driving forward our work on security and particularly the fight against terrorism. I am very happy to see that today Ministers agreed their negotiating position on the rules we proposed to stop the spread of terrorist content online. This was done in record time and shows great commitment to keeping Europeans safe online. I will continue working closely with the Council and the Parliament to ensure we reach a final deal on this proposal before the May elections.
Yesterday I chaired the fourth Ministerial meeting of the EU Internet Forum here in Brussels. Alongside the Regulation, and until the Regulation comes into effect, the Forum will continue to be the very frontline of our efforts, with the internet companies, against terrorist content online.I also welcome the progress made today in our discussions on strengthening the European Border and Coast Guard – but we need a full general approach, on all parts of the proposal, to be able to start the negotiations with the European Parliament now.
I will continue working hand in hand with both the European Parliament and the Council.
We need to give the European Border and Coast Guard the means to provide Member States full and constant support in their responsibility to manage the Union's external borders. In general, we have advanced well in the past few months and years when it comes to our efforts to better protect the external borders and our external actions on migration.
The operational measures agreed today to better fight migrant smuggling are another example of progress on this front, and crucial if we want to address irregular migration in a comprehensive way. Work must also continue and accelerate on the revision of the EU rules on return.
This will help speed up return procedures, better prevent irregular secondary movements and increase effective returns in full respect of fundamental rights. When it comes to the internal side of migration, we still have some urgent homework ahead of us.
Our discussions over the past two years on the reform of our common asylum system must turn into concrete solutions immediately. That is why I am calling on the European Parliament and the Council to adopt before the European Parliamentary elections the five legislative proposals on which agreement is within close reach.
Each of the instruments of the reform, even on their own, would have added value and would make a major difference on the ground.
We need to consolidate progress where progress can be made now. It's time to deliver. The clock is ticking and I will not accept that we let this page turn without achieving progress.
I want to be clear however: that does not mean that we forget or abandon the reform of Dublin or the rules on asylum procedures.
On the contrary, work on both these elements must remain top priorities and I call on the Council to reach a common position as soon as possible. We cannot leave Italy, Greece, Spain or other Member States that may come under pressure in the future to face such challenges alone.
When discussing with the ministers today, I encouraged them to be open-minded, constructive and pragmatic. A possible way forward could be for example that solidarity is translated into the widest possible voluntary contributions from Member States – from the external dimension, the external borders or the internal dimension.
However, we also need a safety net, for times of particular pressure, to ensure that in the absence of sufficient voluntary pledges, real support can be guaranteed to the Member State concerned.
In the meantime, while we continue working towards a final agreement on Dublin, temporary arrangements could be put in place if needed, to serve as a bridge until the new Dublin Regulation becomes applicable. I am confident that our discussions today pave the way for concrete and definite progress at the Leaders' meeting next week.
We need ambitious, pragmatic but also effective solutions. And they are all on the table, waiting to be agreed and adopted in the coming weeks.
There is no time to lose.
I look forward to working closely with the Romanian Presidency come January to deliver on those outstanding files.