“The commission has always said that it does not finance the construction of the walls, and this has not changed between yesterday and today.” With these words, the European Executive Spokesperson, Eric Mamer, laid the gravestone to Austria’s request to erect a wall between Bulgaria and Turkey. A position that comes at the same hours that President Ursula von der Leyen addressed a letter to 27 governments of Member States on the occasion of the Extraordinary European Council on February 9 and 10 in Brussels. Speech explaining the European migration strategy.
On border protection, again regarding the tension between Bulgaria and Turkey, the Commission spokesperson added: “It is up to member states to determine how best to fulfill their border protection obligations, and the European Union is there to support them in this context. On the other hand, in his letter von der Leyen defines migration as “a European challenge to which we must give a European response”. Also because, as the Commission President recalls, last year the European Union recorded a significant increase in the number of irregular arrivals on the routes across the sea Mediterranean and Western Balkans,” the highest numbers since 2016.”
There are three points on which von der Leyen insists for an immediate response: “strengthening external borders”, with coordinated use of EU resources at strategic points and working in a more targeted manner with partners in the Mediterranean and Western Balkans; “Accelerate return procedures”, more systematically apply the concepts of safe third countries, and take advantage of EU cooperation to support EU countries’ efforts to encourage repatriation. Finally, the head of the EU’s executive arm supports the need to “address the problem of secondary movements” by ensuring “effective solidarity”.
With this in mind, he proposes “full implementation of the Dublin Regulations to discourage secondary movements” of migrants and increase support for member states most under pressure, using a voluntary solidarity mechanism for deportations that should become the message – “a permanent mechanism.”
So far, the fact that solidarity between countries is “voluntary” has proven to be an obstacle to an effective redistribution of migrants. A problem that the “first port” countries suffer from above all, Italy is in the lead. Converting this mechanism from voluntary to automatic is one of the most difficult goals to achieve, given the opposing traditions of the Nordic countries. A real breakthrough could not see the light without significant funding. Von der Leyen asserts that the money is there and has indeed increased.
As mentioned in the speech, “Border management and anti-smuggling projects this year in North Africa and the Western Balkans will exceed half a billion euros. Bringing together the different aspects of EU relations will allow us to build on progress in the area of migration as an essential part of broader relations with key partners.”
Finally, the President called on countries to cooperate with NGOs regarding search and rescue at sea, urging them to respect the applicable rules and standards.
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