Dear friends, good afternoon,
Let me start with the current state of play. When we look at the Eastern Mediterranean, we see the first tangible results of the EU-Turkey statement, as only 876 people have arrived in Greece since 13 May 2016.
When we look at the Central Mediterranean, we see the usual seasonal trend as we did last year: 14,852 people have arrived since 13 May. These are still too many.
To address this situation, we presented last week our approach for a new partnership framework with third countries. The Commission is willing to develop the compacts as soon as possible. The package today primarily looks at the other side of the coin that is equally important. It looks at the management of the migration within the European Union.
It provides a state of play and a roadmap on:
how to better manage migrants that are present in Europe
and on how to go back to a normal and sustainable situation for all the Member States, for all citizens
Our recommendation for a gradual step-by-step approach for Greece to become again fully part of the Dublin system is part of that, and of our overall objective to help Greece restore a proper functioning asylum system.
Greece made significant progress since our first recommendation in February, but we are not there yet.
Today's recommendation should be seen as a roadmap for Greece to take steps to improve:
its open reception facilities,
the access to the asylum procedure and free legal aid,
as well as establishing the Appeals Authority and structures for vulnerable applicants, including unaccompanied minors.
In September, the Commission will take stock of progress made by the Greek authorities and will update its recommendations. The Commission and the other Member States will support Greece to implement all these recommendations.
But let's also be honest and realistic: We cannot expect Greece to have a properly functioning asylum system and resume Dublin transfers, without addressing the major pressure that it is facing with more than 50,000 asylum seekers on its soil. This is why delivering on relocation is an essential part of the overall solution.
In the last month, 780 additional persons have been relocated. This is the double compared to last month but it clearly falls short of the Commission's proposed target of relocating 6,000 people per month.
Member States have to speed up their efforts. There is no time to lose on repeating wishful words; it's not enough. We have a humanitarian crisis to deal with, and we have to do so in a responsible and effective way.
At the same time, if we want to keep the numbers arriving in Greece low, we have to deliver on our promise to open legal pathways to come to Europe, while closing the irregular corridor.
So far, only 7,272 people have been resettled of the agreed 22,504 under the July scheme mainly from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
We have to reach our goal. The smugglers will only be out of business permanently, if we can offer something better and safer for those in need of protection to come here.
This brings me to our third item: the state of play of the EU-Turkey statement. Our priority is, and remains, to ensure continuation and full implementation of the entire EU-Turkey statement.
We have seen some positive progress:
Irregular arrivals from Turkey have decreased drastically, as the average daily number of irregular crossings since 1 May has been 47.
Turkey continues to readmit persons from Greece. Since 20 March, 462 irregular migrants who have not applied for asylum have so far been returned to Turkey from Greece. 511 persons have been resettled from Turkey to the EU under the 1:1 mechanism, out of which 330 since the last report.
We have also made progress on delivering further on the Facility for refugees in Turkey, working to contract €1 billion before the end of the summer.
There is common will and understanding by all partners that this agreement has to work. In certain areas, however, work still needs to be done. Both sides need to deliver and uphold their commitments.
On visa liberalisation, Turkey still needs to fulfil the remaining benchmarks of the roadmap, so that visa requirements for Turkish citizens can be lifted soon. We remain ready to assist.
In Greece, the Appeal Committees under the new law will be set up within the next 10 days and I am confident that procedures will be accelerated soon.
All necessary steps should be taken to prepare the grounds for the start of the humanitarian admission scheme.
These shared challenges are the opportunity for the EU and Turkey to come closer.
I have said this before: the EU needs Turkey and Turkey needs the EU. This relationship is part of a longer shared history and partnership, but most importantly, of a common perspective.
We should see our shared challenges and solutions within that bigger picture.
As you can see, slowly but surely, we are making progress on many different fronts in parallel – and this is also what needs to happen. One cannot happen without the other.
Now is the moment to pick up the pace and continue delivering on all these elements.
The Commission will keep being supportive and helpful in order to achieve our goals.