- the report (A6-0186/2006) by Patrick Gaubert, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on the proposal for a Council decision on the establishment of a mutual information procedure concerning Member States’ measures in the areas of asylum and immigration [COM(2005)0480 C6-0335/2005 2005/0204(CNS)],
- the report (A6-0190/2006) by Stavros Lambrinidis, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, on strategies and means for the integration of immigrants in the European Union [2006/2056(INI)],
- the oral question by Martin Schulz and Martine Roure, on behalf of the PSE Group, to the Commission, on European Union immigration policy (O-0061/2006 B6-0311/2006),
- the oral question by Ewa Klamt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group, to the Commission, on European Union immigration policy (O-0064/2006 B6-0313/2006),
- the oral question by Jean Lambert, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group, to the Commission, on European Union immigration policy (O-0070/2006 B6-0318/2006),
- the oral question by Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, on behalf of the ALDE Group, to the Commission, on European Union immigration policy (O-0073/2006 B6-0319/2006), and
- the oral question by Roberta Angelilli and Romano Maria La Russa, on behalf of the UEN Group, to the Commission, on European Union immigration policy (O-0079/2006 B6-0322/2006).
Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, thousands of immigrants are losing their lives trying to reach our European continent. Ceuta, Melilla, the Canaries, Lampedusa and Malta have become tragic symbols in the task of managing migratory flows, particularly from the South of the world. Since Monday, nearly 1 000 men have attempted to land and have landed in the Canaries. The European Union must not push the problem back outside its borders.
The countries of Africa cannot resolve the problem of migratory pressure on their own. Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I recently led a delegation of MEPs in the Canaries. It is true that the European Union is proposing aid and protection at the borders, but there are still men and women thronging the beaches. The meeting on migration, which will be held next week in Rabat, is a first, very encouraging step. Finally, representatives from the countries of Africa and Europe are going to get together around a table in order to find some solutions.
The codevelopment policy that Europe is due to put in place tomorrow must become more effective, more intelligent and more secure, so as to assure us that the funds allocated will benefit the people, and them alone. If we are effective in our efforts to help the people of Africa to remain in their own countries by enabling them to live decent lives, then we will not have to count the dead bodies on the beaches of Italy, Malta or Spain.
In an area without internal borders, such as our Schengen area, coordination and information-sharing among the various national immigration policies of the 25 Member States are crucial. The first important stage in achieving that aim is to improve the exchange of information among the Member States.
My report concerns the establishment of a mutual information procedure in the areas of asylum and immigration. Each Member State must communicate to the other Member States and to the Commission the national measures that it plans to take. The main points developed are as follows: all of the Member States will have to supply information concerning their present national legislative state of play. This information will therefore constitute an initial database that will help us to become acquainted with the various policies currently in force and to understand what changes subsequently need to be made.
My second point relates to the political dimension. The new procedure will act as a permanent link between national administrations. It is important to make progress and to add a political dimension to this administrative level. This will be the aim of this new tool.
The final point that I want to mention relates to public accessibility. The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has tabled some amendments aimed at opening up the network to the public. I have always been in favour of more transparency in decision-making procedures, but not in this particular case. I shall explain what I mean by this: all of the legislative texts that have already been adopted at national level are naturally made public. Nevertheless, political discussions on the future measures and draft laws under way must remain confidential. Otherwise, governments will refuse to submit their current projects to us and to discuss them with us, and we will never have this information.
In concluding the first part of our joint debate, I should like to thank all of the shadow rapporteurs with whom I have worked effectively over the last few months. I hope that, together, we will demonstrate our will, during tomorrow’s vote, to strive towards greater cooperation among the Member States at EU level.
As regards the integration of immigrants, I should like to congratulate our fellow Member, Mr Lambrinidis, on his work and his will - and I stress, his will - to find compromises between all of the political groups. Integration policy represents a mutual commitment on the part of host countries and of legally resident nationals of third countries. This commitment comprises rights and obligations for both parties. Immigration cannot be promoted if we cannot give the immigrants a humane reception in relation to work, accommodation and children’s schooling.
A successful integration policy therefore hinges on a person’s finding a job. This, in turn, hinges on his or her ability to speak the language of the host country. Immigrants also need to have access to civic education classes and to programmes on equality between men and women in order to become better acquainted with the values of the host country.
The reports presented this evening deal with the immigration and integration policies within the European Union. The idea of this comprehensive debate is particularly interesting, because it is difficult to dissociate the two issues. Immigration and the integration of immigrants are subjects that rarely leave people indifferent. These very sensitive issues are at the centre of countless questions and debates that mobilise governments, citizens and elected representatives.
Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the management of migratory flows will take place at European level, because, together, we must build a safer, more prosperous and fair Europe.
Stavros Lambrinidis (PSE) , rapporteur. – (EL) Mr President, I am convinced that the smooth integration of immigrants into Europe is a challenge tantamount to the successful enlargement of Europe. The over 40 million immigrants in the Union today are, in terms of population, a twenty-sixth Member State.
However, in contrast to policies for the smooth integration of candidate countries, the European Union has committed precious few officials or resources over recent years to the major challenge of immigrant integration.
The EU Council, to its credit, firmly stated its commitment to immigrant integration at Tampere in 1999 and reinforced its position at the summit in Thessaloniki under the Greek Presidency in 2003. Congratulations are also owing to the Commission and Franco Frattini in person, for the exceptional working paper on immigrant integration published a few months ago, with emphasis on the common basic principles of Groningen.
However, reality still by no means reflects the expectations created. Unfortunately, the Union has long been paralysed by the widely held view that integration is a local matter and that, consequently, Europe as a whole cannot help.
Integration initiatives are indeed implanted locally. Schools, businesses, places of worship and the other institutions of a local community do the hard work of bringing newcomers and natives together on a daily basis. Nonetheless, integration is pan-European in its implications, especially when it fails.
Thus, while local, regional, and national authorities should determine the precise integration measures implemented in each case, the Member States as a whole must pursue effective integration strategies whose outcomes advance the Union’s common interests. It is in monitoring and objectively evaluating these outcomes that EU institutions can and must become far more active and particularly effective.
My report stresses that immigrant integration implies both obligations and rights for immigrants and for the citizens of the Member States. Prime place among the report's proposals is held by the need for us to start consultations to end the political and social marginalisation of immigrants and encourage their social – and more importantly – their psychological integration, so that they do not feel condemned to marginalisation in advance.
The language of the host country and its ethics and customs and the workings of state institutions must be taught to all immigrants and, at the same time, the state must give them the possibility of free expression of their cultural identity and equal access to education, jobs, housing and so forth.
The report points out, among many other things, the importance of adopting positive action to integrate immigrants into the education and employment structures of the Member States and into the structures of the political parties in the Member States. It calls on the Member States to apply directly, fairly and without prohibitive restrictions existing directives on racism and xenophobia, on family reunification, on equal treatment in employment and on the status of long-term residents.
It stresses the importance of making provision for naturalisation rights for all long-term resident immigrants, especially for the children of immigrants born and raised among us. It proposes that the Member States appoint a minister with overall coordinating responsibility for integration and an immigration ombudsman.
Should the countries of the ΕU accept more immigrants and, if so, how and how many? We all know that this question is at the epicentre of a very broad public debate in numerous Member States. By contrast, the reply to the question of whether we should pursue the smooth integration of immigrants already living and working among us is self-evident.
They must become full members of our societies. Anything less would imply that we accept and prefer a society with first- and second-class citizens. Such a policy would undermine the social and economic fabric of our societies. In other words, it would be wrong and would benefit no one.
To close, I want to warmly thank all the political groups, shadow rapporteurs and coordinators, especially you Patrick, merci beaucoup, because I know how difficult it was for all of us to promote this report. I thank all of you for your important amendments in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs which made this report stronger and richer, especially you Jannine.
I know that it was not always easy for us all to find the final combinations, but we tried and succeeded on numerous counts. Thank you once again.
Ewa Klamt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, being one of the world’s safest regions, and with one of the strongest economies, the European Union is under pressure from the large number of people who want to migrate to it, and managing this flow will be one of the tasks for the Europe of the future. Our European migration policy must aim to manage legal migration while also preventing the illegal variety, for space for legal migrants is made available only if the illegal ones are kept at bay.
In an EU whose internal borders are largely open, migration can – and may – be regulated only with reference to the other Member States and on the basis of joint responsibility, something that Mr Gaubert made quite clear in his report.
Mr Lambrinidis’ report shows how support for efforts at integrating immigrants is another important component of a rational and coherent migration policy, but it appears from the Commission’s document – which I have to say is excellent – that all the European Union can do is lay down the framework conditions for this. What is beyond doubt is that failure to integrate not only frustrates the immigrants, but also makes it considerably less likely that the host society will accept immigration.
While a well thought-out immigration policy is certainly worth working towards, Europe’s border regions need help; they need it now, and they need it at once. We should all care about the things we see happening in Malta, the Canary Islands, Lampedusa, Ceuta and Melilla; all the Member States, the Commission and this House, should help the countries concerned right now, without delay and without bureaucracy.
Medium-term solutions can be found only through joint effort across various policy areas, such as internal and external policy and development cooperation. Cooperation with, and support for, transit countries and countries of origin, are part of the solution. We, whose concern is with the framing of internal policy, are prepared to play our part in bringing them about.
Manuel Medina Ortega (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I am speaking on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament to put the question presented on its behalf by Mr Schulz and Mrs Roure. This question is supplementary to the reports by Mr Gaubert and Mr Lambrinidis on immigration issues. I would like to say that these two reports make an important contribution to resolving the problem of immigration.
The main concern is that there should be a comprehensive immigration policy. So far we have just had bits and pieces of policies. Let us hope that on the basis of the resolutions of the last Brussels Summit we can create that comprehensive policy.
A comprehensive immigration policy must begin with the countries of origin, however. In other words, what are we in the European Union doing to prevent immigration from being the only source of income for the inhabitants of many of these countries? That is the first thing we have to consider.
Secondly, given that it is not going to be possible to resolve the problems of the developing countries in the short term, what measures are we taking to protect our external borders, including a legal immigration policy of course – which has been laid down in the Hague programme since December 2005 – so that those citizens who want to come to work in our Union, if the jobs are available, can do so in a legal fashion?
Thirdly, as has just been said in relation to the previous reports, we must bear in mind that, at the moment, while no European Union immigration policy is in place, each country must bear the costs and the work of that policy. There are currently a series of border countries, and not just in the South of Europe, but also in the centre of Europe, which are having to endure an excessive burden in terms of caring for these illegal immigrants on a humanitarian level.
To date we have had minimal resources. For this year we apparently have just EUR 5 700 000. Let us hope that, when the financial perspective is approved, from 1 January 2007 we will have more resources. Furthermore, we must remember that these immigrants are not extra-terrestrials, they are not robots or machines, but they are human beings who have to live in society, who have family and emotional needs which must be met.
Above all, what Europe cannot tolerate is having two classes of citizens here: those who – to use the terms of a sector of the French far right – are de souche, that is, of European origin, and those who are not, because, as we have seen recently, that is the source of a series of social problems that are very difficult to resolve.
We must integrate immigrants into our societies. They cannot be left outside of the central current of our society. An immigrant, or the children and grandchildren of immigrants, have the right to live as people, under the same conditions as all other citizens of the Union.
We must also consider that the flow of immigration does not necessarily have to be completely irreversible. In the heart of every immigrant is the desire to return to their country of origin. What are we doing to ensure that immigrants have the opportunity to maintain their ties with their countries of origin, so that they can return to their countries of origin without having to endure all of those horrendous illegal immigration procedures, so that their stay outside of the countries of origin is seen as nothing more than a transitional stage, so that, when they return, they can enrich the society of the countries of origin?
In certain countries of the European Union, such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, this is what happened during an era when time spent abroad was seen simply as a step towards returning to the country of origin and strengthening its economy.
I hope that Commissioner Frattini will help us in this regard – we have a great task ahead of us – and that the Union's institutions, the Commission, the Council and Parliament, can implement the immigration policy which is so essential at the moment.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, all the Council’s fine words, as enshrined in the Tampere programme and confirmed in the Hague programme, have borne very little fruit to date. Every now and then, the Council takes very small steps, albeit reluctantly and on the basis of lowest common denominators. The Council is, to my great regret, conspicuous by its absence even now during this mini-debate.
Although clearly, national agendas are seriously undermining the European agenda in this respect, it is to those agendas that the Member States are very much committed. The fact that a Commission proposal is needed to get the Member States to cooperate more effectively in the area of data exchange typifies the Member States’ passivity where the establishment of a common asylum and immigration policy is concerned. As Mr Gaubert said a moment ago, this data exchange is of major importance and quite simply a matter of necessity.
The immigration issue is one of the biggest challenges in 2006 and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but reinforcing external borders alone will not be enough and should not, in fact, be our intention. Commissioner Frattini has already indicated this and presented a comprehensive package of measures in this respect. Both the Council and Commission will therefore need to make haste in realising all ambitious intentions to the letter.
Common asylum policy, the uniform asylum procedure and the uniform asylum status, thanks to which those who are entitled to protection will also receive it, must be completed by no later than 2010. Accordingly, we must draft common European return policy as a matter of urgency – in respect of which I should like to remark that everyone, legal or illegal, is entitled to respectful and dignified treatment – which should include awareness and information campaigns in the countries of origin and transit, concluding association and cooperation agreements with those countries, creating a clear link between immigration policy and adopting development policy and, vitally, the swift introduction of a European green card.
As my questions are set out in black and white, and as my time is limited, I will not repeat them here, but I do expect a clear answer, certainly in connection with the passerelle provision. After all, political courage means that you have to have the correct instruments at your disposal if you want to give visible form to your convictions.
Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I should like to speak briefly on the issue of integration. We know from a number of pieces of research and projects done under the Equal Programme – not least the strand on asylum-seekers – that the message coming through very clearly is that integration starts on day one for new arrivals and it starts the day before for host communities. We have a whole range of good practice there that we should be drawing on, so that this becomes a process that gives us as many wins as possible. That also means realising that for some parts of the world, migration is part and parcel of development policy.
I think we all agree that people who want to migrate should do so as a matter of free choice. We know, however, that large numbers of illegal people are actually people who have overstayed their visas; they have not entered illegally. We also know that there are large numbers of people who are semi-compliant, because rules are not clear or are difficult to access.
Until we start looking at the development aspect of this issue, it will be like squeezing a balloon: if you apply pressure somewhere, you just get a different shape somewhere else. Therefore, we need to look at this very seriously, and Member States need to stop complaining and start cooperating on a common migration system.
We also need to beware of the commodification of people. When I look at the policies of some Member States that are now considering drawing unskilled workers from new Member States and not using third-country nationals, I am not sure what message that sends out. Indeed we know that for people from some of the poorest countries, access to work in the European Union is crucially important to their country’s development, and the remittances that go back can be up to eight times the amount of aid that we are putting in. We know that people are pulled towards rich countries when inequality is most acute.
I am interested in how the Commission is going to approach the development aspect and trade policies, to ensure that our policies move in a coherent way instead of pulling against each other all the time.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the reports produced and the questions asked have given me many ideas and I would like to thank the two rapporteurs and all the authors of the other documents debated today.
In my speech I will try to define the guidelines for the action that the Commission is preparing, also because, as all Members know, only six or seven months ago there were many doubts within the European Councils about the truly European, rather than national, dimension of the great challenge of global management of migratory flows.
The most important item of political information, which has been mentioned many times but is sometimes forgotten, is that, between November and December of last year, the European Council finally expressed itself with one voice; inspired by the spirit of Salonika 2003, it recognised that immigration requires a global approach, which can only be a European one. This is a political step forwards of definite importance and today we have been asked to implement the action plan.
This action plan comprises a series of concrete initiatives of which you are already aware. These are the proposals that the Commission has presented in recent months and that are in part the subject of the reports and the questions that you have brought up. For example, one of the main keys to European action is the principle of solidarity between Member States of the Union. This principle implies many things: first, it means that the Member States undertake to provide each other with mutual support should one of them be subject to particular pressure from migration.
The second aspect of the principle of solidarity is precisely that to which Mr Gaubert’s report, which I very much liked, is devoted. It is a report based on a proposal that I put forward in 2005, when I became aware of the need to provide a firmer basis for exchange of preventative information by each Member State that legitimately wished to adopt immigration initiatives, where these initiatives had an impact on the other Member States. Establishing a consultation mechanism is another way of applying the principle of solidarity. We must not forget that whatever happens within the borders of each State has repercussions in other States, hence the mechanism for mutual consultation and communication.
I accept with great pleasure all the proposals made in Mr Gaubert’s report, including the additional proposals, such as that for permanent political dialogue at ministerial level. There is also a proposal for an annual report, which the Commission would be very happy to present to this Parliament each year, on the operating of this mechanism. Someone who spoke before me said that there must be mutual trust between Member States for this mechanism to function. If there is no mutual trust, we can write the rules, but they will remain on paper alone. We will, therefore, need to put political pressure on Member States, explaining to them that if they do not communicate or exchange information with the other States in a true spirit of European sharing, things may go well one time round, but then go badly, as we say in Italian. It suits everyone, therefore, to be totally transparent at all times and this is the spirit of the report by Mr Gaubert, with whom I concur.
What are the shared guidelines for European immigration policy? First, a challenge that is both global and European. Second, and this is the most innovative aspect, a role for the European Union as a single player on the international scene, for example and in particular in neighbouring geographic areas; I refer specifically to Africa, to the Mediterranean area and to our close neighbours in the East. These are the three main geographic areas where Europe has to conduct political action in practice as a single player with a single voice.
What things have to be done within this political challenge? Above all, we have to confront the fundamental causes of immigration at a European level. Mrs Lambert has just stated perfectly correctly that we must transform immigration that is the fruit of despair into immigration that is the result of the choices made by people who freely decide to go and live and work in the European Union, but who are not forced to flee because of poverty or lack of drinking water in their country or because their environment has been destroyed. So what should we do? Point European development aid policies in the direction of strategies to deal with the lack of local development. For example, we can organise intervention that focuses on migrants’ countries of origin in order to encourage investment and the restructuring of the agricultural system or the environmental fabric, which is very often devastated and blighted.
We are currently considering projects for funding in conjunction with the World Bank, in order to use the remittances sent back by regularised immigrants and invest them in their countries, naturally only if this is what they want. So what is the obstacle? Very often immigrants have no access to bank credit and thus we would like to encourage credit services that are more prepared to invest, for example in a small or medium-sized company in a country of origin. We are developing so-called micro credit projects precisely to encourage the setting-up of such investment outlets in the countries of origin.
This work will be developed at a global political level, represented by contribution of Europe, which, I hope, will really speak with one voice, at the United Nations sitting in September, commonly known as the High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development. This session will take place on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly; here they will pinpoint the relationship between immigration and the development of the countries of origin. Europe will present a strategic document, based on a proposal that I will submit to the Commission in a few days prior to the summer break; this will be the European Commission’s contribution to this debate, which, I think, is the most important theme that we need to address.
The second theme is combating the trafficking of human beings, as mentioned by Mrs Klamt. You will know that the trafficking of human beings is now one of the major sources of income for totally unscrupulous organised crime. We now have very clear information on traffic flows, on the origin of the traffickers and even on the price charged to each desperate individual transported with no guarantee of reaching their destination alive. On average, traffickers ask these desperate people for enormous sums, between USD 1 500 and 2 500 each, without even providing a guarantee of safe arrival on the other side of the Mediterranean.
It is clear that combating the trafficking of human beings must go hand in hand with the protection of the victims of trafficking and, therefore, with the theme of vulnerable victims, immigrant women and children who are victims of the traffic in illegal immigrants.
In this respect I think we will also have to consider, because we need to do so, a policy of repatriation as European action against those who cannot stay on European soil because they do not have the right papers. I think we should organise repatriation moves, setting standards, in conjunction with the United Nations agencies, for the respect of individuals, not only for their rights, but also for the dignity of those to be repatriated; they must be repatriated in total compliance with the standards defined by international conventions.
In this context, we are working on readmission agreements. At the moment we are addressing very ambitious challenges, such as signing as soon as possible, first with Morocco and then with Algeria, readmission agreements that are once again European, and no longer bilateral between one State and another, to increase Europe’s political dimension.
The third theme is legal immigration, which I see as an opportunity and certainly not a danger. It is obvious that, as far as legal immigration is concerned, we have to comply with national regulations. For example, you merely have to remember that even in the constitutional treaty that we signed in Rome, we had specified that the number of immigrants who could enter each country would be determined at national level; that said, however, I think joint rules are needed on the admission of legal immigrants and I fully share the opinion of the person who said that we should not ask for or hire only highly qualified immigrant workers because that would cause a brain drain that would very likely impoverish the countries of origin. Instead, our intention is to encourage people to move around, since it is clear, as someone has said, that many immigrants would like to go back to their country of origin, their motherland, and we have to help them to do so.
In Europe, however, there is a need for seasonal workers and agricultural workers, workers in so many sectors, who are not highly specialised, but who are of use; if, therefore, we confined ourselves just to engineers, doctors or researchers, it would lead to the impoverishment of the countries of origin.
The fourth theme is integration. Mr Lambrinidis knows how much I appreciate his work, and in particular this report because, until now, integration was not considered to be what it effectively is: a factor that cannot be separated from migration policy. Allow me to say that it would be irresponsible to welcome immigrants without integrating them because we would thereby increase their frustration and their sense of isolation.
It is precisely on this subject that our proposals provide for focusing on key sectors, on civil rights, on accommodation, education, and on work, which must obviously be legal rather than illegal. We have proposed, and we are implementing, a permanent European Integration Forum, and local government will have a prominent say. For how long now have we forgotten mayors, regional governments and civil society organisations? And in talking about integration, we cannot confine ourselves to the capitals of Member States. The European Integration Forum will deal precisely with this aspect and I hope that this Parliament will support it by approving the European Integration Fund. This fund does not replace national policies, but helps them to be more efficient.
The fifth theme is illegal immigration. I am about to promote an initiative, which the Commission should approve on 19 July, on certain guidelines for illegal immigration. First, I believe that we should promote a proper education and communication strategy in the countries of origin. When they arrive in Europe, aspiring immigrants do not know the rules, do not speak the language, do not know about work opportunities, and do not know the laws of the European countries, which, however, they must respect; so why not consider one of my proposals on vocational training courses and language courses in the countries of origin, which Europe could encourage and even cofinance to prepare for legal and necessary immigration? It is obvious that, if we wish to beat illegal immigration, we need to stop undeclared work, because undeclared work means exploitation and is also a factor that attracts further illegal immigration.
The sixth theme is urgent measures to protect and provide concrete support for the Member States with the greatest problems. The Canary Island mission has been decided; thirteen Member States have agreed to participate and will provide naval vessels and aircraft to patrol the Atlantic coast opposite the Canary Islands. A second European mission will then go to the aid of Malta and patrol the Mediterranean. I would like to emphasise that these are the first actions to be coordinated by the Frontex Agency, that is by Europe. They are not actions implemented by individual Member States working together, but are coordinated by a European agency.
These constitute urgent patrolling measures, but they are not just that; they are also measures to save human lives at sea, because the humanitarian aspect of this terrible tragedy is that, every week in the Mediterranean, in the sea around my country, we see people drowning; often we do not even manage to recover the bodies. These actions, too, are absolutely vital.
Lastly, the seventh theme is aid to the immigrants’ countries of origin and of transit. We have to provide concrete assistance, work with them and, if I may say so, in a spirit that replaces the usual tone of international relations, in a real partnership. I am about to go to the Rabat conference, which will take place on Monday and Tuesday next week, in Morocco itself. For the first time, at this conference the African countries and Europe will meet to develop a common action plan.
I think that we will then have to create an instrument to provide constant monitoring of the initiatives that we will be adopting in a few days’ time; then we will need a second meeting, this time under the aegis of the African Union. I think that the future will see the African Union and the European Union implementing a strategic programme and I think that this can really make a difference.
IN THE CHAIR: MR McMILLAN-SCOTT Vice-President
Dimitrios Papadimoulis (GUE/NGL), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (EL) We have all recently witnessed the failure of numerous European societies to integrate immigrants. We have lived through the explosive consequences of the breakdown of the social fabric. We therefore need to take measures both at national and regional and at European level which will bridge the gap between immigrants and host societies.
The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs decided to call on the Member States to introduce secure legal status and a secure package of rights to support this development:
- by signing and ratifying the UN Convention 1990 recognising the rights of all immigrants, irrespective of their legal status;
- by reversing social deprivation and adopting a package of clear legal rules for all migrant workers;
- by taking measures to promote the education and information of immigrants on their social and employment rights;
- by guaranteeing individual resident's and work permits and strengthening the information and participation of host societies in the integration process.
I am delighted that the report by my honourable friend Mr Lambrinidis adopts many of the ideas of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
Barbara Kudrycka, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (PL) Mr President, I would first of all like to congratulate the rapporteurs, Mr Gaubert and Mr Lambrinidis, for taking action to lay the basis for a common, modern EU immigration policy. Such joint actions should not only help to resolve problems relating to the latest waves of immigration, but also with the integration of the European-born children of immigrants.
The transition from words to deeds requires not only a good legal basis and mutual exchange of information, but above all funding. For this reason it is a good thing that, in addition to funds for refugees and funds to secure our external borders, a fund for the repatriation and the integration of immigrants has also been set up. As the rapporteur on these funds I would like to stress that we succeeded in dispelling all doubts as to the legal basis of the integration fund, and so we have a decision establishing such a fund that would help it to be unanimously established.
This can be regarded as an achievement for this House. There is only minor opposition from a handful of countries, which, it should be said, have considerable problems with the integration of immigrants, and whose position is therefore all the more puzzling. For this reason it is a good thing that Mr Lambrinidis has drawn up a resolution on the integration of immigrants. But even this motion for a resolution has aroused some controversy, mainly as regards the political rights of immigrants. Conferring political rights, and therefore the right to vote in local elections, is a decision which, according to the principle of subsidiarity, lies within the competence of Member States, in most of which such a right is conditional on having nationality of that country. As a Parliament we may have the right to make political recommendations, but we should remember that we cannot force Member States to incorporate such provisions into their national legislations.
A further important point is that we cannot allow the legal status of citizens of the new Member States as regards access to labour markets, services, education and housing in the lands of the ‘old 15’ to be worse than the situation of legal immigrants from third countries. Let us please remember those who already integrated with the European Union in May 2004.
Claude Moraes, on behalf of the PSE Group. – Mr President, our country is out of the World Cup, so we can stay here for as long as we wish!
I congratulate the Commissioner for taking the time to attempt to act on the Commission communication of September 2005 and to give us real policies with which we can progress.
Of course the Council has to be a willing partner too and we are hoping that the Finnish Presidency might repeat the discussions at the Tampere Council, which were extremely progressive. I hope we see evidence of that.
The Lambrinidis report is a progressive and positive addition to the new debate on integration in this House. It is positive for a series of reasons. The rapporteur does not just look at all the fashionable ideas on integration in the different parties; he tries to look at what works. This is too serious a subject now for us not to look at the models that actually work. He says we should share best practice, which we are not currently doing. He talks about implementation of the directives that will make integration work, such as the race equality directives. He talks about money, about the very little we spend on integration, given the disproportionate results, the disproportionate economic and social benefits we would get from spending on the kinds of projects the Commissioner talked about, whether language or other integration projects.
All these things are important, but ultimately we should stop thinking that integration is not for the European Union. Integration is for the European Union; not just the sharing of best practice, looking at the best models of integration, but the political will of this House to provide local support for those people who believe that integration will benefit society, benefit the economy and ultimately create harmony in the EU.
Mr Lambrinidis has produced a report that takes us one step forward. Let us hope that further initiatives come from this House, that the Commission remains strong and that the Council will join us in this struggle.
Ona Juknevičienė, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (LT) Firstly, I would of course like to congratulate the draftsmen of the reports for their excellent work. I am delighted that there are many ideas in these reports which were approved by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs when it voted on the opinion I prepared regarding migration and development matters.
The Community is letting in more and more emigrants from almost all the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and so far, there is little expectation that the scale of this phenomenon will decline. As we do not have a labour market development strategy covering the whole Community, including migration from developing countries, this report will partially fill the gap. If the Community does not have a common policy for regulating migration flows and if legal regulation in individual nations is unsuitable, conditions arise for illegal migration, human exploitation, human trafficking and other crimes. There have also been cases like this in Lithuania. People are running from Lithuania, while employers are seeking immigrants from third countries.
The report states that immigration from developing countries will help solve labour market problems in the Community. It also says that migrants will help develop their own countries by sending money home. This is partly true, but I think it is a rather narrow view and the labour problem will remain for as long as we restrict the free movement of workers within the Community itself and until we solve the problem as a whole, not fragmentally. As the Vice-President said, if we want to help poor countries develop, funds set aside by the Community must not be directed towards food products or financing the budget, but, first and foremost, the creation of small business and jobs. Then people will have work and they themselves will take care of the development of their countries.
Hélène Flautre, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, (speaking without a microphone) EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development, a conference initiated by Morocco, France and Spain, following the tragic events of Ceuta and Melilla. There is one tragedy after another. According to some reports, 3 000 people are thought to have died over the last few months trying to reach the Canary Islands. Yet, the debates are focused not on the duty to protect people, but, once again, on the control, the closing, and even the militarisation, of borders. Yet, as all the reports attest, the majority of population movements are headed for the countries of the South, and not for those of the North, and the number of asylum claims in Europe has halved over the last 15 years.
The Union and its Member States have an increasing influence on development aid. Only last week, a Senegalese newspaper ran the headline: ‘Europe is closing our borders’. That strategy puts the lives of twice as many people at risk – those whose only chance of survival is to leave their country, and those who are forced to take ever greater risks in order to enter Europe. Yet, freedom of movement, and more specifically the freedom to leave one’s country, is enshrined in the international standards.
The absurdity of this policy is plain to see when we know that the income that migrant workers send back to their countries of origin is twice the amount of official development aid. Rather than guaranteeing respect for the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers, namely the right of access to asylum procedures, the principle of non-refoulement or the right to a private and family life, Europe is multiplying the strategies aimed at shifting this responsibility onto third countries. Worse still, the Member States do not hesitate in violating their own obligations, for example by referring to the readmission agreements and sending people back to countries in which their safety is not guaranteed. The project to create so-called ‘regional protection’ areas in countries such as Belarus is also in keeping with this idea.
Finally, the Member States are playing an active part in making the policy of imprisoning migrants and asylum seekers an everyday occurrence, and are going as far as to fund secure detention centres in third countries such as Libya and Mauritania. The European Union must urgently review its policy and listen to the sub-Saharan, North African and European civil societies. A large number of members of these civil societies were gathered together in Rabat last week, and they adopted recommendations that deserve to be taken into account.
Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I do not think that Europe’s problem stems from migratory flows; the real problem is not people arriving on our territory, but the large number of people who do not get to Europe, those who die in the Mediterranean Sea or in the Atlantic Ocean.
I have heard Commissioner Frattini confirm the need to patrol our coastlines. I believe that they should be patrolled solely to avoid people dying at sea, because the number of arrivals is ridiculously low: in the first half of 2006, 9 000 immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands, as compared with the 8 million tourists who go to the islands every year. I do not think that migratory flows have a very high demographic impact and we should, therefore, avoid talking about an invasion of immigrants and should try to develop a common policy for the entry of immigrants.
Europe, however, has adopted a repressive joint policy, setting up administrative detention centres, implementing a joint policy of mass expulsion often determined at G5 summits and applying the principle of externalising frontiers, which, it seems, will be the main topic for discussion at the forthcoming summit in Rabat.
I am of the view that we should radically change our strategy, with a view to true integration, based on the need to institute a mixed-race identity for Europe, and that we should also consider citizenship through residence, a residence permit to enable people to find work, harmonisation of the right to asylum and the right of immigrants to vote. I think that this new method of looking at immigration can help Europe in its constituent process.
Sebastiano (Nello) Musumeci, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I realise that the problem of illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, seen from here, Strasbourg or Brussels, in the heart of the European continent, may appear to many to be a marginal issue to be addressed with the cold, formal language of bureaucracy and with the complicity of Community policy, which, at times, can be cynical and hypocritical.
Those, like me, however, who live day and night in Sicily, the furthest point of Europe in the Mediterranean, have no difficulty in declaring, within the plush walls of this Chamber, that a true human drama is unrolling before our eyes. Only last year, Commissioner, more than 20 000 illegal immigrants arrived on our Sicilian shores, double the number of those who landed in all the European countries bordering the Mediterranean in the past two years. Each day, hundreds of arrivals undergo the same ordeal, the same stations of the Cross: shipwrecks offshore and then bodies washed up onto the Sicilian beaches by the sea currents.
It is a tragedy involving young players and victims, women and children fleeing from their countries, searching for a dream that for none of them will ever come true; first they have to go through the human smuggling racket and then a life of hardship, suffering, privation and exploitation awaits those who manage to avoid the police controls. This tragedy is taking place on European soil and what is Europe’s response? It responds late and ineffectually.
Only last December, the European Council in Brussels proposed a series of generic actions to be taken in 2006 and invited the Commission to coordinate their implementation. But it is said that resources are limited and additional funds will not be available until 2007. Too little, Commissioner: we need decisive action and your statements this evening have given us the right to hope. You are known to be a person who is in favour of decisive, practical action and we invite you to give us yet another further demonstration of it.
Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, in the debate on immigration, emotion and reason are sometimes at odds with each other, as was evident on Dutch television recently, when the journalist Sorious Samura accompanied illegal immigrants from Morocco to Ceuta, thereafter to mainland Spain, and from there to France and London. The image that was portrayed to the viewing public was shocking.
However difficult the living conditions, border crossings were very often easy. The help of people-traffickers – which had to be paid for – appeared to make nearly everything possible, and once the immigrants had left the reception centres, they were able to leave the country in which they had arrived, although they then had only a life on the wrong side of the law to look forward to, which is far from desirable. That is why people-traffickers must be tackled. Their activities must be punishable and they must be prosecuted.
I have two questions for Commissioner Frattini. Whilst we have been inundated with information on immigrants who arrive on Spanish islands, there is little information on how the smugglers and the captains of the boats involved will be challenged. This contrasts with the way in which the trafficking of human beings over land, in respect of which sentences have already been passed, is being addressed. What options can you see in the short term to be able to make a start on tackling human trafficking by sea to the European Union? Also, is it possible, on the basis of Frontex’s expertise, to actively challenge the organisations that transport people to, for example, the Canary Islands and Spain?
Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE). – (PT) Mr President, Mr Frattini, ladies and gentlemen, this is not the first time in this Chamber that I have advocated a European policy on legal immigration – for humanitarian and economic reasons – and measures to step up the fight against illegal immigration and the trafficking of human beings. The two proposals before us are important and useful.
I should like first to speak about the Lambrinidis report and to say to Mr Frattini that the Commission’s proposal is most welcome and well balanced, although I fear that the rapporteur has gone too far on some points, such as political rights. Immigrants must be integrated, but we must not forget that this works both ways: host countries must strive to integrate them, but they must also do their bit in the drive towards integration. I agree with Mr Lambrinidis that it is appalling that there is still a consultation process and the requirement of unanimity throughout the area of legal immigration and I agree that the passerelle clause provided for in the Treaty should be invoked in order to give Parliament codecision powers.
I wish to highlight the importance of the Gaubert report aimed at establishing a web-based information system on this issue. Although the implementation of integration initiatives will be done at local level, it has broader implications. The difficulties experienced by one Member State in defining and implementing their integration policies has an impact in other Member States at social and economic level. It is thus in the Union’s interest that the Member States implement effective integration strategies the results of which serve the common interest. It could and should be the Union’s responsibility to monitor and assess the results of the efforts of integration. This will contribute towards the rapid adoption of the best techniques.
Józef Pinior (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, immigrant populations have increasingly become part and parcel of European societies. This is a great benefit to Europe. Immigrants contribute towards the economic, social and cultural wealth of the European Union. I say this before this House during the football World Cup, minutes after the semi-final between France and Portugal. Let us look at the teams of the EU countries, which are multi-ethnic teams illustrating the diversity, strength and pride of today’s European Union.
The European Union’s success in integrating immigrants will largely determine Europe’s position on the global market and the success of the European project. One issue I would like to draw attention to is that at the level of political integration, true integration of the immigrant population in Europe can be achieved on the basis of a new legal and political identity, on the basis of a European constitution, which would guarantee a European identity to all social groups in Europe, over and in addition to their national identities. In addition, the legal status of integration and special European funds will guarantee proper integration of all social groups within the European Union. This requires courage and vision on the part of European leaders and the citizens of the European Union.
Tatjana Ždanoka (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I should like to congratulate Mr Lambrinidis on his excellent report. The Verts/ALE Group fully supports its main ideas. The proposal to call on Member States to encourage political participation by immigrants is particularly important.
We believe that long-term resident immigrants should have the right to vote in local and municipal elections. It is regrettable that not all political groups fully support such measures, without which, in our opinion, immigrants will remain politically and socially isolated. The Commission should therefore undertake a legal review of Member States’ current practices in this area.
We shall all have the opportunity to see how the local elections are conducted in our host city, Brussels. All non-EU citizens who have lived there without interruption for five years will have the right to participate. I hope that event will be an example of good practice, to be adopted by all Member States in their election laws.
Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL). – (EL) Mr President, immigration is not a scourge and multiculturalism is a fact which we need not to tolerate but to welcome, and not with words but with deeds.
By not trying hard enough to overcome the obstacles faced by our fellow citizens who are immigrants and by raising obstacles to immigrants seeking to enter the territory of the Union legally, we are putting a brake on progress itself.
It is of course important, when talking about integration, for us to be clear about what we mean. What should we be working towards? Fundamental integration should not be interpreted as the integration and full assimilation of immigrants, nor as an offer of privileges which uphold and maintain a discriminatory system which may strengthen racist and xenophobic behaviour.
The objective of integration presupposes a two-way relationship of offer and dialogue, exchange and interaction, understanding and mutual respect of the citizens of Europe as a whole. It is impossible, without the safeguarding of equal access to employment, to state education and to the national health system, in an environment which is not characterised by divisions between immigrants and non-immigrants, for the citizens of Europe, irrespective of origin, to benefit as a whole from the prosperity of an advanced social and economic area.
At the same time, it is our duty to ensure that immigrants, as citizens of Europe, are able to participate at all levels and in all activities of the state, including the democratic right to vote and stand for election.
To close, I want to remind everyone that integration is not only an objective for immigrants, but the duty of each and every one of their fellow European citizens.
Derek Roland Clark (IND/DEM). – Mr President, any society needs an influx of fresh blood, but there is the question of the impact of newcomers on society.
Before the growth of the public services and infrastructure that we now demand, large numbers of immigrants were easily absorbed, but now they place an enormous strain on public services. In well-developed countries, massive immigration from undeveloped regions intensifies the problem. Some unskilled workers find it difficult to get a job and become a burden on the welfare state. But we should not try to attract skilled people from undeveloped countries, because they are badly needed there to improve their own economies.
Once we saw Vietnamese boat people fleeing oppressive regimes. Now we see West Africans taking to boats and hazarding the Atlantic to seek a better life. That is due, at least in part, to the EU, as powerful fishing fleets armed with licenses granted by the votes of this House plunder their waters, reducing people already badly off to abject poverty.
Migration is mainly economic and the pressure to migrate decreases as the prosperity of undeveloped countries improves. We must help those economies, both as a duty and to reduce migration. Third World countries do not need a handout. They need expert help to build their infrastructures and sources of employment. Above all, they need to trade.
If communities can sell their produce outside their own backyard, they make progress. Unfortunately, for all its fine words, the EU stands in the way, consumed with protecting European producers. The EU’s high tariff barriers cruelly shut out the Third World from trade highways.
President. Since the next speaker is Polish, I should report that this morning I heard that the United Kingdom has 500 000 Polish workers now. They are doing a marvellous job.
Jan Tadeusz Masiel (NI). – (PL) Mr President, for a long time Europe has needed a common immigration policy based, as in the United States, on control rather than on assistance for integration.
I believe that the countries of the EU have to date been too patient and provided too much assistance for integration, particularly for Muslim emigration, but without any significant results. On the other hand, immigrants from places such as Asia have made use of this opportunity and integrated more successfully.
The time has come to demand more from immigrants. They must want to and strive to integrate, which will make integration more effective, and not just abuse our welfare systems, frequently undermining the sense of security in our countries. A new criterion for legal immigration should also be the needs of the host country, as France recently proposed.
Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Mr Frattini, I congratulate you, but only you. Let us look at some of the aspects identified. The European Union detects the problem and expresses alarm at every visible critical situation: Lampedusa, Ceuta, Melilla, Malta or the Canary Islands. Nevertheless, it does not establish the common policies necessary to prevent or properly manage migratory flows, either legal ones or, less still, illegal ones.
The countries of the South add drama to the pressure on, and the violation of, the Union's borders. So many people are dying that it is not possible to give an accurate figure. I have said a thousand times that there are five essential inter-related aspects to this great issue: legal immigration, illegal immigration, asylum, integration and subsidiary protection.
We must include the remote causes and the causes close to home here: origin and transit, structural poverty and irresponsible encouragements to come here, which translate into the languages of all poor countries as the dangerous phrase ‘sooner or later there will be papers for everybody’. Meanwhile, what part do we play in this display of incompetence and incapacity? I will give you two examples; I will tell you what is going to happen this weekend.
Tomorrow and the next day in Brussels the Council will say at technical level that it has begun to discuss the distribution by country of the three new integration funds: border control, repatriation of illegal immigrants and integration. What happens, however? In the mean time, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands squabble about distribution criteria: migratory pressure, kilometres of borders or the number of entries by air. Pointless discussions: we are not talking about proper funds, we are talking about mini-funds. This morning Mr Millán Mon said that, in the financial perspective, of every one hundred euros just fifty cents are allocated to immigration issues. That is the real shame. That is the real truth.
Another negative example, Mr President, is that, also the day after tomorrow, the Council – of which I am highly critical – will respond by means of a global approach to immigration. That is all the Council will propose: a global approach.
Finally, Mr Frattini, it is very important to commit ourselves to the countries of origin and countries of transit. It is very important that Mr Solana go to those countries of origin and countries of transit. FRONTEX is not the solution. FRONTEX is a new-born baby. FRONTEX will achieve nothing without the Carabinieri or the Civil Guard. We must not therefore be complacent in any way and we must make every possible joint effort to tackle this extremely serious problem.
Louis Grech (PSE). – (MT) Two weeks ago in Malta we had an influx of around four hundred illegal migrants in the space of three days. This is equivalent to the arrival of around eighty thousand migrants in Germany within three days.
In the same week we had some violent incidents between the police and around four hundred migrants who escaped from the centres in which they were staying. It would be superfluous for us to carry on singing a monotonous song of arguments to explain the crisis that this human tragedy is bringing to the affected countries as well as its effect on the dignity of migrants. These two events in themselves should be more than enough to show the explosive situation that we are currently in.
This is a European problem, no country is capable of dealing with this tragedy, let alone a miniscule country like Malta, which is carrying a much greater burden than it can bear. With the exception of certain initiatives recently taken by Commissioner Frattini, the Union has not really treated this issue with the urgency and commitment that it deserves, and neither with the necessary funds or logistic help. We also await the revision of the Dublin II Regulation. The Union has done too little too late, and when one sees that the Union has not made much progress in dealing with illegal immigration, one begins to doubt the extent of the concrete action it will take in this regard.
We appreciate that the Finnish Presidency has made immigration a priority. We augur that we will see words translated into action, so that as President Barroso said this very morning, we will change our gear in order to perhaps finally make the step from reflection to action.
Miguel Portas (GUE/NGL). – (PT) Ladies and gentlemen, we agree that problems associated with migratory flows cannot be resolved at national level. Europe has not been there for the immigrants who need it. The Union deals with capital and the movement of commodities, but does not pay attention to those who see Europe as a dream of a decent life. I therefore support greater transparency and the broad thrust of the proposals put forward by Mr Lambrinidis.
Immigration is a social reality, pure and simple. It says everything about us. Let us not, however, be under any illusions – the South will always look to the North, yet, more to the point, the North does not open its arms to the South. Immigration is not a police matter. The only fair criterion on which to base our decision is respect for human dignity. Europe cannot speak about human rights if it does not practise what it preaches in its own house. With one hand we close off the Mediterranean at the cost of death in the sea, and with the other we leave millions of people without papers at the cost of a society bisected by an invisible wall separating the citizens from the non-citizens. This is what must be changed, and footballers should not be exempt.
Andrzej Tomasz Zapałowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, the current discussion on the integration of immigrants in the European Union is a consequence of the immigration policy to date.
Opening the doors to a mass influx of populations originating from different civilisations – populations which in the overriding majority of cases assume that they will not integrate with their host populations and states – is madness. It may lead to the destabilisation of society on the continent for many years to come, and even, in certain circumstances, to tragedy. Multiracialism and multiculturalism within society also means multiplicity of conflicts. Anybody who arrives in an existing state must realise that they are its guests. If they want to settle permanently, they must accept the traditions and cultures of the countries they have chosen, although they may obviously treasure their own culture and customs.
An error in the old policy is the fact that for many years it restricted immigration from the countries of Eastern Europe, whose populations are culturally close to the rest of Europe. We in Poland despair at the large number of young people who are now leaving the country, but after World War II Western Europe abandoned that part of Europe to communist rule. For decades we were deprived of the opportunity for normal economic development.
James Hugh Allister (NI). – Mr President, sustained immigration is a fact for many Member States, and when managed, it has aided economic output, although it would be foolish to deny that, on occasions, problems of a social or other nature ensue.
I should like to take the opportunity of this debate to condemn unreservedly a series of racist attacks that have occurred in my constituency of Northern Ireland. Decent people do not want any part of that, and I deplore what has happened in regard to some recent incidents.
I have three points to make in this debate. First, the control of immigration policy is, I believe, properly a national issue and should not become an EU competence; otherwise, national governments cannot exercise the controls necessary to their situation. Second, it is imperative that immigrants integrate and do not become a debilitating state within a state. Hence, in the United Kingdom I support Chancellor Gordon Brown’s calls for a willingness and for procedures to embrace Britishness. My third and final point is that with three million illegal immigrants in the EU, this issue has to be robustly tackled, not least because of its association with the odious practice of human trafficking. It is not acceptable for some countries to engage in so-called regularisation of their illegal immigrants and thereby qualify them for free movement to other Member States.
Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). – (MT) Commissioner, you are aware that last week the influx of irregular immigrants alarmingly exacerbated the situation in Malta. Two hundred and sixty-six people arrived in a single boat. Up to now, one thousand people have already arrived this year, and we are still at the beginning of summer.
If things continue like this, the number of people who arrived last year, which was a record year, could be doubled. Commissioner, you are aware that proportionately speaking, one thousand people in Malta are equivalent to two hundred thousand in Germany, two hundred already at the beginning of the summer. This is the seriousness of the situation. Commissioner, you also know that the immigrants do not wish to reach Malta but continental Europe. So much so, that in order for this boat of two hundred and sixty-six people to enter Malta, the Maltese Armed Forces had to spend several hours trying to convince them to enter Malta. This is to say that they arrived in Malta because they were saved by the Maltese Armed Forces in a life-saving mission, as it should be; this is the meaning of solidarity, as you yourself, Commissioner, were right to state; this is what solidarity means in Malta, but what solidarity is actually being shown to Malta?
Last week there was a riot, as my colleagues mentioned, with four hundred immigrants escaping from a detention centre and making a protest march towards the office of the Prime Minister, asking to be sent to another European country. Facing this situation, the Maltese people are asking: what is the European Union doing? What is it waiting for before making a move?
I regret to say that although I know that you are personally very sensitive to the situation in Malta, up to now the Commission has given more words than action. Many plans and few results, and the results we are urgently waiting for are two: the immediate restriction of the influx of immigrants, and the fairer sharing of the burden among all parties.
Stefano Zappalà (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am not Maltese and, therefore, while acknowledging that the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is doing a magnificent job, I regret that the Finnish Presidency, which today began its term of office, is not present; this may be because of the match, or the time or perhaps a lack of attention (seeing that one of the Finnish Presidency’s themes is immigration), but it is not here. I have no choice, therefore, but to turn to Commissioner Frattini, who is certainly the most important representative of the European Union to be taking an interest in this issue.
I have had the pleasure and the honour of leading several visits to various countries. This evening I would like to give Commissioner Frattini a message to deliver, and I also hope that some Council official takes note of it and mentions it to the Finnish Presidency. I would not want to deliver a keynote speech or a political kind of speech: ‘I understand everything and I am aware of everything’.
Malta, Commissioner Frattini, is not what people imagine it to be, precisely because here Maltese colleagues make comparisons with Germany, Italy and Spain, etc., while in Malta people are unjustly detained. Here in this Chamber we have talked about so many things; this great European Union values the rights of all, even those who launch attacks, except those of thousands of people held in Malta. I have so many letters and SMS texts about these people that I could write a novel.
Commissioner Frattini, if this European Council, this European Union really does want to avoid being hypocritical about Malta, it must remove these people, who have been held there for months or even years.
Malta is not in any position to solve the problem. The European Union, the large countries, should take it upon themselves to bring out those 2-3 000 individuals, who are betraying Malta and turning it into a xenophobic country, which, amongst other things, regrets entering the European Union. Let us avoid this problem. Let us have these prisoners transferred out of Malta to other far larger EU countries.
David Casa (PPE-DE). – (MT) Almost three months have passed since this Parliament approved a very important resolution. The resolution listed the problems which Malta is facing as a result of illegal immigration. A resolution which offered plausible solutions, but which has unfortunately been ignored by both the Commission and the Council of Ministers.
The problem we have before us today is much more critical and acute than it was at that time; unfortunately, the Commission's efforts up to now have been at a minimum and almost without any effect, and we cannot say that we have seen any positive steps taken since that time. We are facing the disembarkation of illegal immigrants on a day-to-day basis. The solution is not to build more detention centres, because we would be reducing little Malta to an enormous jail. We want Europe to face its responsibilities, we want the Commission to treat each country according to its merits, and I have no doubt that due to our small size, Malta's problem is the most serious one of all, and requires the greatest immediate attention.
We were promised concrete action, but I would like to say that next to nothing has happened; for example, in April you promised us maritime supervision in the region, today I was happy to hear you say that this issue has been solved, but Commissioner, when are these patrols around our Mediterranean coasts going to begin? The consequence is that, as my colleagues Louis Grech and Simon Busuttil have said, over four thousand illegal immigrants have entered Malta in the past two weeks. This is the equivalent of sixty thousand in Italy, or eighty thousand in Germany. And this summer is just beginning, just think, Commissioner, what a situation we will be in when the year finishes. Today I heard you talk of plans approved for Spain, which is excellent, but you are saying that Malta will be the second phase; when is this second phase going to begin: when it is too late, Commissioner?
Yes, the Maltese people are right to see these as empty words, because they are saying: where is the solidarity we talk about so much? How can we expect Malta to carry this enormous burden on its own, and when are we truly going to go from the many nice words to concrete action? The Maltese people are frustrated, and are right to be so, because the situation is alarming. This is the moment of truth. This is the moment for the Commission and the Council to prove to small countries like Malta that they are not being discriminated against by the European Union.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Members from Malta are right in that we have had to face a series of similar situations; but they are aware that recently a Commission technical mission went to Malta and made contact with the government there.
As I have already said, we are gauging the willingness of Member States to send a mission to patrol the Maltese coast; there are now eight Member States who have signified their readiness to participate in this second mission, following the one organised for the Canary Islands. Although eight Member States constitutes a significant number, perhaps it is not enough; but a few days ago I informed Minister Tonio Borg, the Maltese Deputy Prime Minister, that I will be able to provide the Council meeting this month with precise details of the actual date of departure of this mission.
You are obviously right; if I had the tools and the flexibility that the bureaucratic systems do not confer on me, this mission would have left a long time ago.
President. That concludes the debate.
The vote will take place tomorrow at 12:00.
Written statements (Rule 142)
John Attard-Montalto (PSE). – I want to take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the European Parliament the plight of both the Maltese and the irregular immigrants in Malta. All feel abandoned by the European Union.
Almost daily, boatloads of irregular immigrants land on our shores. They are the lucky ones; many drown striving to make it. Malta has been left on its own to deal with this enormous problem. Everyone in the EU – Commissioners, Parliamentarians – knows we do not have the resources. But we have been left to our fate.
Obviously Malta is being bypassed for larger countries with more influence. Of course we have received an abundance of condemnation and sympathy but nothing else.
Before joining the Union we used to hear European representatives praising the principles on which the Union was built, foremost solidarity. We are steadily reaching the conclusion that this may have been only empty rhetoric. I wonder whether Malta will receive the same treatment when, not if, we start to enjoy the wealth beneath our seas. I am sure that then, like a jack in-the-box, the principle of solidarity will re-emerge.
Bruno Gollnisch (NI). – (FR) In every EU country today, there is the same admission of failure regarding the integration of what has become a universal form of ‘population-swelling immigration’.
The solution is not, as the report proposes, to create yet another European fund, which is dedicated, this time, to the integration of third country nationals, or to create additional programmes emphasising the promotion of immigration and diversity within the EU, or to encourage immigrants to take part in politics, particularly by granting them the right to vote in local and municipal elections. Nor is it to ask the Council to use the ‘bridging clause’ in accordance with Article 67(2) of the Treaty, in order to confer on Parliament codecision powers relating to integration and legal immigration. The Member States must refuse to lose yet more of their powers in relation to protecting their identities and to securing their borders. Brussels’ ultra-liberal and pro-immigration philosophy is leading to a catastrophe, as can be seen everywhere. The European strategy must be confined to the drafting of partnership agreements with countries of origin in favour of a return policy, and, lastly, it must be focused on strengthening its controls at its external borders.
Magda Kósáné Kovács (PSE). – (HU) We welcome the Commission's proposal because the aim of introducing a mutual information system in the area of asylum and migration is to avoid tensions between Member States and reinforce cooperation.
I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on submitting a report that is progressive and develops the proposal further.
Handling coordination at a political level may create a forum for governments to reach agreement before making decisions, and therefore, bring laws in Member States closer together.
I also welcome that the Commission is preparing a summary of the legislation passed by Member States, which will provide a comprehensive picture of existing legislation within the European Union, allowing us to assess the Member States' activity from an EU perspective.
We also agree that the document drafted by the Commission should be presented to Parliament's committee responsible for these matters, as well as to the Council, which will open up a more wide-ranging discussion, while also strengthening the role of Parliament.
As regards transparency, we find it acceptable that at a political level, while trying to reach agreement beforehand among Member States, information which has been placed on the network is treated in confidence so that a real agreement can be reached. At the same time, with the aim of informing citizens and being able to compare the different legislations, the laws already passed, judgments and translations of all these must be made available to everyone.
As regards languages, however, we must accept that there are extremely important official languages in the European Union, as well as less widely used official languages. Therefore, the laws, their assessment and analysis should be translated into each of the Member States' own official languages, as well as into the three most widely used languages, as any more than that would be unnecessary.
Carl Lang (NI). – (FR) According to the texts proposed to us, Europe is supposed to be ‘inhospitable towards immigrants’.
One can hardly believe it when one sees that, on account of its initiator, the Interior Minister, Mr Sarkozy, France is the champion of selective immigration and of positive discrimination in favour of visible minorities, as opposed, I imagine, to the 'invisible' European indigenous majority, and when one knows that foreigners living illegally in France are housed in reception centres or in hotels, are fed and have their children schooled and that they benefit from free state medical assistance, which is not the case for ethnic French people who, for their part, very often have to fend for themselves when it comes to finding somewhere to live, putting food on the table and working.
In Italy, Spain and France, tens and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants are regularly granted residence and work permits and can thus move throughout Europe with impunity. ‘Godfathers’ and ‘godmothers' of young foreigners whose parents are living in the country illegally are cropping up in all of the middle-class cities of France and opposing the deportation of these youngsters.
Is Europe inhospitable? Quite the contrary: it is high time we put a stop to all of this pro-immigration and pro-integration madness of our French and European leaders.
Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Stavros Lambrinidis’ report is necessary and timely. The problems experienced by immigrants are the same throughout Europe.
On both sides of the Iron Curtain, the post-war reconstruction work in the Member States of the European Union took place with foreign labour. The democratic countries mainly relied on spontaneous immigration, though Germany also conducted a certain amount of officially sanctioned recruitment in Turkey.
At the same time, the Soviet Union combined reconstruction work in the Baltic States with an active Russification policy. Estonia’s heavy industry and mines were predominantly started up with unskilled labour imported from Russia. As a consequence of the Soviet authorities’ activities, the immigrants soon made up nearly one third of the population.
After the restoration of Estonian independence, we were faced with a very difficult integration task. The greatest difficulty was the opinion consciously instilled in the newcomers that a small nation like the Estonians was unviable without the support of its large neighbour and that the immigrants from the east were representatives of a higher culture.
Fifteen years later, our integration problem has lost most of its acuteness. Estonia’s experience shows that the establishment of clear rules of the game and the association of integration with definite and tangible benefits can help overcome greater difficulties.
Many of the measures suggested in the report are necessary. The only question concerns the proportions of research, brainstorming and specific activities.
We should definitely involve representatives of immigrant groups as broadly as possible. We should not, however, allow this discussion to remain merely a talking-shop. All participants in the process, both representatives of receiving countries and the opinion leaders of the immigrants, must be given definite tasks to perform. And action must be taken immediately, without waiting for a grand all-encompassing plan and the completion of a system of measurement.