Refugee policy – the stakes are high

24.11.2015 - Interview

Joint article by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Published in Der Tagesspiegel on 24 November 2015.

Joint article by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Published in Der Tagesspiegel on 24 November 2015.

The stakes are high. The foundations of the EU – peace, freedom and the safeguarding of human rights – are hanging in the balance, along with our identity and cohesion and the future of the European project.

Italy and Germany share a historic responsibility

As founding members of the EU, Italy and Germany share a historic responsibility. We have already shown in no uncertain terms that we are meeting it – Italy by saving over 100,000 migrants from the Mediterranean and Germany by taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees. However, no EU member state can cope with this phenomenon, which is of an historic magnitude, by itself. It is also mistaken to believe we can resist this global dynamic and propagate a return to autarkic societies protected by walls – societies that close themselves to diversity.

For all of us, it is time to make the leap to a comprehensive and long-term European response informed by solidarity and responsibility. Germany and Italy are continuing to work actively together to achieve this goal.

160,000 asylum seekers must be relocated

Firstly, the commitments already made by the European Council must be met. These include actually relocating 160,000 asylum seekers away from the most exposed member states, setting up hotspots and activating an efficient European system to repatriate economic refugees.

Secondly, we will continue to press for the establishment of a permanent and binding system to distribute refugees arriving in Europe’s first reception countries; for the replacement of the Dublin Regulation by a common European asylum system; for stepping up the fight against people smugglers; and for creating new legal migration options so that the rapidly ageing Europe can also make use of the opportunities afforded by this phenomenon.

The terrible attacks in Paris have shown that the fight against terrorism needs to be even more resolute and united. At the same time, we must clearly distinguish between those who propagate hatred and death and the thousands of people who themselves are fleeing from the hatred spread by IS.

Beyond the dramatic threat of terrorism, migration poses an epochal, global and lasting challenge to Europe. Thirdly, we aim to work more closely with the countries of origin as well as the transit countries affected by the flows of migrants, with the aim of establishing new partnerships with them. On 11 and 12 November 2015, a summit meeting of European and African Heads of State and Government took place in Valletta, at which all aspects of flight and migration, including their causes, were on the agenda. At the same time, the EU should intensify its cooperation on migration issues on the basis of the action plan with Turkey and the Western Balkans currently being drawn up.

Finally, Germany and Italy will continue to lobby for measures to stabilise the crisis areas in the Mediterranean region. We will not flag in the attempt to help Libya resolve its civil war and to foster a political transition in Syria.

We need to steer the migration issue – not put up with it

Finding our way back to solidarity and common goals in order to steer the migration issue, rather than put up with it, would be a decisive step by Europe, also as regards the endeavours to make the integration process credible once again – a process that otherwise is at risk of coming to a standstill.

And all this is happening at a time when the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 2017 is on the political horizon. We need to use this opportunity, not only to celebrate the past, but also to prepare Europe for the future.

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