Speech by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth at the opening of the dialogue on migration held in connection with the German-Czech Strategic Dialogue in Prague

28.11.2016 - Speech

– Translation of advance text –

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is our third meeting for a dialogue on migration between Germany and the Czech Republic. I am very pleased that Vladimir Spidla and I launched this successful dialogue in early 2016, the aim of which is for our two countries to intensively and constructively share our experiences.

By working together through this dialogue in a spirit of trust, we can better tackle the challenges that all of Europe is facing in connection with refugees, migration and integration, as well as jointly search for European solutions.

Our ability to engage in dialogue is something that we must absolutely maintain. For we will only accomplish the great tasks that Europe must take on if we work together rather than against one another.

However, dialogue does not mean bringing to the discussion only like-minded participants. No, we need controversy, as well as different opinions and positions. All of this may be very trying, but it is also rewarding. We must never stop listening to the other side. We must take an honest interest in the experiences of our partners, and we must be open to advice. Also, it is vital that we not lose sight of what we have in common.

With regard to the refugee issue, Germany has demonstrated how a society can manage to take in 900,000 people who have fled their homes. We are happy that our Czech colleagues want to find out more about how we accomplished this.

Already at our last meeting, we discovered that we agree on a number of issues. The dialogue on migration is helping us arrive at common views.

The dialogue highlights similarities between our two countries with regard to migration policy, especially in terms of our integration efforts.

We learned this through the visit to projects in Berlin in June by the Czech delegation, and I am certain that we will identify many common approaches today, as well, during our meetings here in Prague. Integration policy must be judged in terms of solidarity, shared responsibility and humanity – on this point we agree.

Another issue on which we very much concur is the need to tackle the causes of refugee movements. That is urgently needed. Because as long as we fail to make progress on fighting the causes of refugee movements in the countries of origin, many of those fleeing their homes will continue to seek refuge in Europe.

In the delegations present here today we have experts who can tell us what Germany and the Czech Republic are doing now, and who can identify potential synergies. Our two countries intend to support a specific project in a country outside of the European Union, with a view to also strengthening our practical cooperation.

Our previous meetings in Prague and in Berlin have given us extensive opportunities to share experiences. Our focus was on the worries and fears of people that have arisen in connection with the very large migration movements. We must not amplify these fears, but rather must seek to reduce them through education and explanation. The dialogue on migration contributes to this, as well.

In Europe, our societies are values-based, pluralistic, multi-faith and multicultural. These common values are binding for all, and they offer protection for all, including refugees and migrants. We are open to different religions, ethnic groups and cultures. During encounters with people who have had to leave everything behind and who are looking for a brighter future, all sides must observe the fundamental principles of tolerance and respect for human dignity.

Through the dialogue on migration, we are able to draw closer to a common European understanding of integration. In Europe, we urgently need consensus on how we intend to achieve peaceful and respectful coexistence between people from very different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds.

Of course, the act of taking in a large number of refugees will not be without its conflicts. It is an enormous task, a task for all of us, by the way, for the native population and for the arriving refugees.

In essence, we must think about what expectations we have of the people who are seeking a new home in our midst. It is also about what we will need to do to make this happen.

On one issue, however, I believe we must not compromise in any way: Anyone who wants to stay here long term must respect our values and rules – with no ifs or buts. It’s not just criminal law that has to be respected.

Basic standards such as gender equality and tolerance of minorities also have to be accepted. For these values can’t be acquired in a vacuum. They have to be learned, to be seen in action – in kindergartens and at school, in youth groups and sports clubs.

And Integration is by no means a one-way street. There is the question of whether we ourselves do not also need to change, if we want to be a colourful, world-minded country of immigration. In the long run, we simply will not be able to say to those arriving here: “We’re the majority. You must adapt!”

No, we will have to accept that people who come here will in the medium term also help shape our society. We must view migration as an opportunity – not as a threat. Migration brings with it a diverse and colourful society. And I would go even further. This diversity and these many colours have always been, and remain, a strong European quality!

At this meeting, we intend to take initial results and recommendations that we gain through our dialogue on migration and include these in a joint declaration. Furthermore, we intend to recommend that the guiding principles set out in this declaration will become the foundation for cooperation between Germany and the Czech Republic in the areas of refugee, migration and integration policy.

I am pleased that with the declaration and our agreement to support a joint project we will have achieved two very concrete results through our dialogue.

The dialogue on migration between Germany and the Czech Republic is therefore a piece of encouraging good news with regard to Europe. And that is something we need lots more of!

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