External migration: Speech on behalf of High Representative / Vice-President Josep Borrell at the EP debate

(Source: EEAS)

Speech delivered by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi on Human rights protection and the EU external migration policy

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Madam President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Migration is a key policy area for the European Union. This debate today is a timely opportunity to discuss the human rights aspects of our external migration policy. I would like to thank Ms [Tineke] Strik for her report.

As the report highlights, migrants and refugees are among the most vulnerable groups in the world. I am deeply saddened that loss of lives continues to occur on the perilous journeys to Europe. This is a constant reminder of the dangers migrants face and that we will continue to do everything to prevent this from happening.

Over the past years, the European Union has developed a comprehensive migration policy framework. Our aim is to ensure that migration takes place in a safe and regular manner, avoiding loss of life, and providing international protection to those who are eligible.

There is a strong agreement at European Union level that migration has to be an integral part of overall relations with partners. EU Foreign Ministers and Ministers for the Interior agreed in March this year at a joint Foreign Affairs Council / Home Affairs Council that the European Union must ensure a comprehensive approach and that we need to work in close partnership with third countries.

We aim to address migration in all its aspects. This also includes improving cooperation on return and readmission, and the conclusion of formal readmission agreements or legally non-binding arrangements.

But most of all, it means that the protection of all migrants, their dignity and their human rights, must be at the heart of EU migration policy. This is reflected in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which calls for specific protection of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

The report calls for engagement with third countries on the rights of migrants. This is exactly what we are doing in our relations with partner countries. We are, at all levels, regularly advocating for the protection of human rights in the context of migration. Our European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Eamon Gilmore, frequently addresses these issues in country visits or the human rights dialogues he chairs.

The report underlines the importance of the relevant international frameworks. I am strongly committed to multilateral solutions and approaches. The promotion and protection of human rights are inherent in our cooperation with international partners, such as the International Organisation for Migration or the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].

UNHCR [Filippo] Grandi and the High Representative met very recently and discussed the situation in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Colombia and the Western Balkans. Our partnership to protect refugees and migrants in Libya as part of the African Union-European Union-United Nations Taskforce provides another example of specific cooperation.

The new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument, the NDICI – Global Europe, will improve our ability to address migration-related challenges. The promotion and protection of human rights is enshrined in the instrument. The level of democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament is enhanced by bringing the European Development Fund, which represented one third of the external action funding, under the Union’s budget.

The Commission services and the European External Action Service are committed to the geopolitical dialogue with the European Parliament, where general orientations on the implementation of the NDICI will be discussed. The first one taking place on 15 June, where both the High Representative, myself and Commissioner [for International Partnerships, Jutta] Urpilainen will be present.

Thank you very much.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205727

Closing remarks

Madam President, Honourable Members,

The debate today demonstrated the importance, but also the complexity, of the external dimension of migration. 

The comprehensive approach set out in the New Pact is very clear: we want to build and strengthen migration partnerships, and the promotion and protection of Human Rights of migrants and forcibly displaced persons is an integral part of this approach. We all agree that we need to improve and ensure Human Rights of migrants in a sustainable way.

During the last year, we had several opportunities to discuss EU migration policies, in relation to the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the preparation of your report or on the Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan and Annual report.  Let me reiterate that we look very much forward to continuing to work closely with you in the European Parliament to ensure coherence and transparency and deliver sustainable results.

Thank you.

Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205729

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