Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

Speech at the European Parliament Plenary Session: Progress on the UN Global Compacts for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and on Refugees

Bruxelles, 18/04/2018 - 19:09, UNIQUE ID: 180418_14
Press releases

Speech at the European Parliament Plenary Session: Progress on the UN Global Compacts for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and on Refugees


Strasbourg, 17 April 2018


Check against delivery!


Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini.


Mr President, honourable Members of the European Parliament, I welcome this opportunity to join you today to again discuss the UN global compacts. In our globalised world, human mobility can only be addressed effectively by the international community as a whole. It is – and we all recognise it – a global phenomenon that requires global solutions. No country can manage this alone, but together we can set up a humane, dignified and secure mechanism for governing human mobility.


Over the past years, the European Union has built a comprehensive approach to addressing migration and forced displacement. In the face of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, we are the world’s first responder, granting asylum to persons in need of protection, and offering safe and legal pathways through resettlement.


In the year 2016, Member States granted asylum to over 720,000 persons, and in the year 2017, to 382,000. In the context of our partnership with Africa and with the help of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), we are funding five transit centres where migrants receive assistance, medical care and psychological support.


In Libya, over 33,000 people have benefited from our support in detention centres, at disembarkation points or in their host communities. Through the new Joint Task Force that the European Union has set up with the African Union and the United Nations, an additional 15,000 migrants stranded in Libya have been assisted in the voluntary return to their homes, where they receive re-integration support. 1,300 persons in need of international protection have been evacuated from Libya in view of further resettlement. The Commission has also launched a new resettlement scheme with at least 50,000 additional places for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Turkey by the end of 2019, and set aside €500 million to support Member States’ resettlement efforts.


All this was possible thanks to our common work inside the European Union, and to strong cooperation with our partners in our region and worldwide. Our approach is based on solidarity, shared responsibility, multilateralism and engagement, and we would like these four principles to be reflected in the global compacts on refugees and migrants.


The crucial point for the global compact on migrants is to strike a balance in addressing regular and irregular migration. A person should never risk their life when seeking a better future abroad. Dangerous and irregular travellers must be contrasted, whilst also opening regular channels for human mobility.


As you are aware, we are working very closely with our Member States to develop targeted pilot projects on legal migration with certain third countries, the priority currently being African countries. At the same time, the global compact should promote effective return policies. In this respect, we have managed to engage with a few countries of origin in Asia and Africa.


As for the compact on refugees, it is an opportunity to modernise refugee responses by going beyond traditional humanitarian intervention and focusing on development. This is in line with the European Union’s approach to forced displacement, and it also meets the expectations of host countries and eases the pressure on them. I believe that the global compacts present a unique opportunity to share the lessons we have learned and the partnerships we have built, as well as to listen to the needs and priorities of others.


Comme l’a rappelé le Président de la République française, Emmanuel Macron, ce matin, nous avons besoin de plus de solidarité interne et externe pour affronter les défis migratoires.


Le pacte mondial pour des migrations sûres, ordonnées et régulières doit permettre de renforcer la solidarité entre l’Union européenne et les pays tiers pour une gestion responsable des flux migratoires. Ce pacte permettra de parvenir à une compréhension commune des défis migratoires auxquels est confronté chaque pays dans le monde et fournira une boîte à outils commune pour y répondre.


The two global compacts together present international cooperation frameworks that will guide our work over the next decades. They will serve as a toolbox to address the various situations, which may arise in the future. They will serve as a platform to build new partnerships and to forge new alliances.


So it is clearly in the European interest to negotiate two strong and ambitious compacts, and to do it together as a Union. The future compacts are first and foremost about people, and they must be shaped not only by our interests but by our values. They must be shaped by a vision grounded on human rights, responsibility and mutual solidarity. A vision where the most vulnerable ones, are protected. A vision in which there is no place for traffickers, smugglers and criminal organisations. A vision where irregular migration is reduced, and instead we have the courage to invest in more regular and safe channels for migrants.


We have now reached a defining moment in the process. We are half-way through the negotiations and formal consultations on both compacts. Thanks to the European Union’s leadership and strong engagement, the current revised drafts of both compacts largely reflect EU legislation and policies.

We see a good chance to develop a common understanding on how to humanely and efficiently manage human mobility. The next months are crunch time to find the middle ground between the diverging views, different national migration realities and priorities.


We will continue our engagement toward reaching an agreement on the Global Compact on Migration, to be politically endorsed at the intergovernmental conference in Morocco in December, as well as on the Global Compact on Refugees to be adopted under the auspices of the United Nations General Assembly later this year.


With the withdrawal of the United States from the Global Compact on Migration back in December 2017, the compacts need more than ever a strong and united Europe that speaks with one voice during these negotiations. In that light, I regret that one of our Member States has taken the position on the Global Compact on Migration that is not in line with the position of the 27 other Member States.


Here, our common work and your contribution as the European Parliament will be essential. This is a test of humanity. But let me add that we should also be very pragmatic in how we approach this discussion. Two good global compacts will help us manage human mobility in a much more orderly and effective way. Let’s not turn this into an ideological debate. Let us shape these two compacts together - as a Union and for all Europeans.


Link to the video:



Closing remarks by High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini


Mr President, I listened carefully to this debate and I thank this House for its support for the difficult work we are trying to do in the UN system on the global compacts on migration and refugees, in a global environment that, it is quite clear to all of us, is a challenging one and in particular on issues like this.


We are well aware of our responsibilities in this respect, I would say on two different levels, both of them extremely important. One is the investment in the UN system and in multilateral approaches, as such. We know very well that this is challenged from different sides in the world of today. And we know very well that the world looks at the European Union to create, consolidate and strengthen alliances globally to work in a multilateral manner.


This could be true for issues related to different things, from trade to human rights and crisis management, but also on migration and refugees. So we know that the UN system counts on us. We know that partners around the world count on us, to make sure that the multilateral approach and the multilateral method are the ones followed, when tackling a global issue. I never – never – would say ‘problem’, because we are not talking about a problem, if not for those fleeing countries at war or facing forced movements.


As for the specifics of our responsibilities, we know that we have a responsibility to uphold a certain approach to the migration issues and also on refugees. On refugees, this is clearly the full respect of values and, in particular, the full respect of international principles and regulations. And of the basic moral compass that for us Europeans, I would say for us as the European Union in the context of the debate today, is a must, and this entails the full respect of human rights and the consideration that every single person that is a refugee or that migrates is first and foremost a human being. And, as such, as individual, human rights are impossible to be considered as subject to discussions or negotiations.


We also know that we have a responsibility to build consensus globally on a certain way of managing migration. I say ‘managing migration’. I don’t say ‘stopping a problem’. I say managing migration, which is the partnership approach.


The European Union has not always been on this line. The European Union has, in the past, several times either turned its eyes away from this issue, leaving the front-line Member States alone. Or some other times – I still sometimes see this temptation here and there – it has taken the security approach, as if it were a border management issue. Migration movements are massive global phenomena that need to be managed together with partnerships that involve countries of origin, countries of transit, and countries of destination.


Some of these countries are at the same time all three [countries of origin, transit and destination] and the international agencies of the United Nations system. I will give you an example of how this partnership approach is bringing results, because this is the basis on which we are going to work. And we are already working in the UN system to try to build a global alliance around this model.


Take the dramatic situation in the detention camps in Libya. We have discussed this in this chamber several times. And several times I have told you -  we are working to close these camps. Last December we established a joint task force between the European Union, the African Union, United Nations with the UNHCR and the IOM, and we set the target for ourselves to empty the detention camps and, as an intermediate target, to save 15,000 of the people that were in the detention camps in Libya in the following two months.


We have managed to save and have assisted voluntary returns to their own local communities, where we support them with reintegration projects and economic start-up activities, for more than 16,000 of them in less than two months. And we are about to completely empty the detention centres in Libya.


The news was shocking and striking when we saw the images and the stories from the detention camps. I would also like us to tell the stories of those whom we managed to save, as we empty the detention camps. Because this helps us pass on the message inside Europe and outside of Europe, that this is not the policy we have chosen purely out of values and good feelings. This is also the policy that is bringing results.


It is not the wall or the walls, it is the cooperation and partnership, that is bringing results in migration policies, and we are starting to see good results. We will continue to take this approach, hoping for a united position between the Member States of the European Union.


But let me tell you we will exercise our responsibilities and duties in the UN context on migration and refugees in any case. We will, I imagine, continue to discuss this issue in this chamber in the coming months as we go towards the summit [the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to be held in Morocco on 10 -11 December 2018] and then the finalisation of this work towards the end of the year.


I really count on this Parliament to accompany this work, very closely on a day-to-day basis to help us to build this way of working, both internally within the European Union – I am not touching now here on the issues related to Dublin or other issues related to internal solidarity, that I still believe should be tackled – but mainly on building a global compact both on migration and on refugees based on the principles of human rights and respectful partnership across the globe.


Link to the Video: