President The next item is the joint debate on freedom, security and justice, as well as immigration, all of which are extremely topical issues, particularly following the repercussions of the meetings held this weekend in Tampere.
- the oral question to the Council on the progress made in the area of freedom, security and justice (Articles 2 and 39 of the EU Treaty), by Jean-Marie Cavada, on behalf of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (O-0086/2006 B6-0428/2006), and
- the Council and Commission statements on the common immigration policy.
Jean Marie Cavada (ALDE), author. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Rajamäki, Mr Frattini, fellow Members, before replying to the oral question, allow me briefly to thank you publicly, Mr Rajamäki, for organising the Tampere ministerial meeting, which took place in really excellent conditions.
As Chairman of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, I very much want clearly to express how keenly the European Parliament supports the Presidency’s and the Commission’s proposal to activate the bridging clause provided for by Article 42 of the Treaty. This bridging clause was, I repeat, devised at the very time when the European Union was entrusted with the task of facilitating cooperation between the Member States on security matters, that is to say at the time when the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht was drawn up. The clause did not include a deadline by which it had to be activated. Broadly speaking, it is enough for there to be a combination of mutual confidence and the right political conditions in order for this decision to be taken.
Oddly enough, this bridging clause has never so far been activated because transfer to the ordinary legislative procedure was determined directly by the Treaty of Amsterdam when it came to asylum and immigration policies and to judicial cooperation on civil matters and then by the Treaty of Nice, which facilitated transfer to the codecision procedure in the case of these policies that had been communitised. Police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters has, however, remained excluded from the scope of such communitisation.
On that basis, the question arises as to whether, 14 years after the Treaty of Maastricht, the political conditions – in the form of mutual confidence – have finally come together, enabling the Member States to agree to apply the normal decision-making procedure provided for since Maastricht to this highly sensitive field of cooperation.
For the European Parliament, the answer is clearly in the affirmative, and for three reasons. Activation of the bridging clause would, firstly, enable the democratic deficit to be reduced; secondly, strengthen the rule of law; and, finally, make for more effective decision-making.
Let us quickly consider these three points. Where the democratic deficit is concerned, I think it crucial to strengthen the democratic principle whereby all EU legislation, especially when it affects the rights and freedoms of the individual, must be adopted in association with the representatives of the people. There is a serious deficit when that does not happen.
To defenders of the status quo, who claim that this democratic principle is not absent from the third pillar because governments supposedly act under the supervision of their national parliaments, I should like to offer the following clear response. Can anyone sincerely maintain that national parliamentary supervision is sufficient to ensure democratic balance when decisions are adopted at EU, rather than national, level? What, moreover, is one to make of cases in which this parliamentary supervision is absent, as will be the case when it comes to renegotiating the agreements with the United States concerning, in particular, the Passenger Name Records (PNR) agreement – an extremely serious issue that will be considered outside the framework of any democratic control.
Let us turn now to the second reason, which has to do with the principle of strengthening the rule of law. According to this principle, it must be possible for a judge to verify the legality of legislation of any kind. Where EU legislation is concerned, the judge in question should, logically, sit in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. However, Article 67 of the Treaty establishing the European Community and Article 35 of the Treaty on European Union introduce such limitations on the competence of that jurisdiction that the judges themselves have expressed doubts as to whether certain legislation relating to the second and third pillars respects the principle of the rule of law. This issue therefore needs to be resolved.
Let us finally turn to the third point, which is about effective decision-making. As we all know, the need to maintain unanimity prevents rapid and effective decision-making of any kind, and this at a time when the seriousness of the threats to the EU since the attacks of 11 September and those on Madrid and London should encourage a much more rapid decision-making process.
Having noted these three weaknesses - and they are, moreover, difficult to challenge objectively – how is it possible still to justify postponing a decision that could have been taken as long as about ten years ago? Some claim, Mr President, that this issue should be settled within the framework of negotiations for a new Constitutional Treaty. That is something to hope for, but can we afford to await the outcome of this whole process, which will, at the very least, take two to three years when there are ongoing security threats and a permanent question mark over our freedoms? Admittedly, the bridging clause will require ratification by the national parliaments, and that could enable those who are more hesitant to gain a bit of time. This difficulty may, however, be overcome through more thorough dialogue with the national parliaments, which, moreover, we in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will be receiving on 3 and 4 October 2006, that is to say next week, in the form of a big interparliamentary meeting at which we have high hopes of convincing them.
Kari Rajamäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I bring greetings from Tampere and my colleague Leena Luhtanen. I would first like to thank Mr Cavada and Mr Gargani for their enormous contribution at Tampere. We had open and concrete discussions about the development of freedom, security and justice. In connection with this, while we were there we also learnt about cycling, and Commissioner Frattini said that we have to keep pedalling so we do not fall over. It is somewhat similar with the European Union. Some of my more critical colleagues said that surely the bicycle can be stopped safely, and you can even put your feet on the ground to support yourself. I finally had to say that if the chain has come off, however, it is difficult to get going again. We should perhaps adopt the philosophy that Mr Cavada seems to espouse in what was an excellent speech.
Cooperation in the European Union is important for strengthening the security of our citizens, and at the same time we need to ensure that basic rights and freedoms are observed. In this connection, the European Union’s ability to function, take speedy decisions and respond to changes in the operating environment is decisive.
The policy line taken at the European Council in Tampere in 1999 means that there have to continue to be high levels of cooperation between the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council. The Finnish Presidency wants to promote the new Tampere spirit.
The protection of fundamental rights is a priority. All the Member States are parties to the European Convention on Human Rights, and the work of the Council constantly reflects the importance of guaranteeing that the principles contained in it are upheld. This also obviously applies to such sensitive issues as combating terrorism. I would emphasise that these values are acknowledged in all areas, both in internal action and in relations with third countries. Particular attention is being paid to establishing a European Fundamental Rights Agency. Discussions on a Council Regulation establishing the proposed Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union have begun, and the work has now reached an important phase. The Finnish Presidency will be making a determined effort to have this agency set up by the beginning of next year.
An important question that was raised is whether the Agency should also act in areas now covered under Title VI of the Treaty on European Union. The Presidency particularly wants to focus on exploring the Agency’s competences under the third pillar. To this end, we hope that the Member States will demonstrate flexibility, so that we might find a solution that satisfies everyone.
Last autumn, we had constructive talks on the Data Retention Directive, in what was a difficult situation, to look at its technical, legal and financial aspects. We were soon in a position to address the main concerns of the Member States and the European Parliament. I think that this is a splendid example of how decisions can be taken by a qualified majority, but at the same time the aim is to reach a consensus. Thus encouraged, we would like to adopt the Framework Decision on the protection of personal data under the third pillar as quickly as possible. We aim to conclude the first reading of the proposal during the current six-month term. The Council is now carefully considering the European Parliament’s opinion on this proposal.
The abolition of checks at internal borders – that is, the expansion of the Schengen area – is an important political objective for creating an area in the European Union based on freedom. The Schengen evaluation process launched at the beginning of this year has already made it possible to carry out comprehensive evaluations of police and visa cooperation in the new Member States, as well as data protection at land and sea borders and at airports.
The new Member States must meet all the conditions for applying the Schengen acquis. This also implies the existence of a viable Schengen Information System.
The inspections arranged for this year are now well underway. We will be reviewing the results in December and then deciding on further measures. Some time ago, we received a report from the Commission concerning the delayed technical progress of the SIS II system. Measures and timetables relating to this must be examined openly and honestly in the light of the latest information.
European Council policy means that we have an obligation and a desire to examine what we might be able to do to accelerate preparations for abolishing checks at internal borders. The Finnish Presidency has promoted the drafting of the legislation on SIS II together with the European Parliament, and hopefully we will reach consensus on this in October. I would like to thank Parliament’s rapporteur, Mr Coelho, for his tough but resolute approach to finding a joint solution.
In a high-level working group in the Council, we also agreed on practical measures to try and improve coordination of the SIS II project and cooperation between national projects and preparations for the central system, which is the responsibility of the Commission.
The Finnish Presidency of the Council raised this controversial matter immediately in July, and it was also discussed last week at Tampere. At next week’s Council meeting, we will be discussing the new technical preparations timetable for the SIS II project and any realistic alternative solutions that we might have at our disposal. This should lay the groundwork for setting a target date for removing internal border controls at the December Council and in the European Council. At the December Council, the overall situation with regard to the Schengen inspections may also be examined. We will do our utmost to expand the Schengen area as quickly as possible, with no compromises on security.
The Treaty already contains provisions on procedures to help assess interpretations of cases under Title IV of the Treaty or the legality or interpretation of acts adopted by the Community’s institutions.
Under Article 67 of the Treaty, the Council, acting unanimously and having consulted the European Parliament, may adapt the provisions relating to the competence of the Court of Justice of the European Communities. This Friday the matter will be raised for the first time by the Court of Justice working party, and whether or not it will be discussed further will depend on the opinions expressed by the Member States there. The Presidency regards this as an important issue.
As we know, the citizens of the EU quite rightly expect the European Union to be able to engage in more effective cooperation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. At the same time, we have to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are respected.
By virtue of the Treaty on European Union, the Council, acting unanimously and having consulted the European Parliament, may adopt the use of the bridging clause provided for in Article 42 TEU, and ‘communitarise’ police cooperation and cooperation on crime either entirely or partially. Last week in Tampere, an important debate was held on this subject between representatives of the Member States, the Commission and the European Parliament, and I particularly want to draw attention to the view firmly expressed there by Mr Cavada in the Council of Ministers, which reflects not only my own opinion but that of the European Parliament too. It was a very important addition to our debate. There was also huge support there for more effective decision-making. We are determined to continue the work in this area in accordance with the European Council’s conclusions. I wish to stress that this debate does not go against the Constitutional Treaty: we want to emphasise specifically the importance of the Treaty in the development of an area based on freedom, security and justice.
In order for progress in legal and internal matters to be visible in public security as well, we need to ensure that these acts are fully integrated into the legal systems of the Member States. During our presidential term, we will aim to develop systems to evaluate legal and internal matters, on the basis of the Commission’s communication. In addition, several peer evaluation methods have been established for matters connected with organised crime and terrorism.
Not all the Member States have yet ratified the Protocols to the Europol Convention. The Council has regularly reminded Member States of the importance of this matter. Finland trusts that the Protocol will enter into force by the end of the current year.
Closer cooperation between law enforcement authorities has been one way of trying to achieve added value in internal security in the enlarged Union. The Presidency can announce that Finland will adopt actions nationally in the near future that will permit it to become a signatory to the Prüm Treaty. Soon at least eight Member States will have signed up to this Treaty. This fulfils the minimum requirement for initiating enhanced cooperation pursuant to Article 43 of the Treaty on European Union. As the country to hold the Presidency, we will work towards making the Prüm Treaty part of the European Union’s legal system.
The Council will continue its discussion on the Framework Decision on procedural rights on the basis of the Commission’s initiative. In June, the Council decided to continue its work on the basis of the compromise proposal put forward by the Presidency. This imposed greater restrictions on the number and scope of rights than did the joint proposal, focusing instead on general requirements. We are likewise aiming to bring to a conclusion the first reading of the proposal as regards its main content during the current six-month term.
Regarding racism and xenophobia, the Council has been advised that the Member States that had had general reservations about the draft instrument no longer have them. Talks can therefore start again as soon as possible.
The European Union has developed a joint policy on immigration, border control and asylum on the basis of the Tampere European Council and the Hague Programme. It is founded on the solidarity of the Member States, mutual trust and shared responsibility. It takes full account of human and fundamental rights, including the Geneva Convention on Refugees and the right to seek asylum in the European Union. Member States and their authoritative bodies are responsible for controlling their external borders and immigration and carrying out asylum-seeking procedures.
During the Finnish Presidency so far, the Council has aimed to have a comprehensive debate on immigration questions. This was the case both at the July Council and at the informal ministerial meeting in Tampere last week. Recent events in the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean highlight the destiny that the countries of Europe share and the need for commitment on the part of all the Member States. It is essential that the Union’s institutions – the European Parliament, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex), the Commission, and other competent bodies – act in a spirit of cooperation and coordination.
The European Union needs to step up its efforts to give practical support to Member States that bear the greatest burden when it comes to the number of illegal immigrants arriving. In connection with this, the Presidency presented its initiative on extended European solidarity at the meeting in Tampere. Under the initiative, in return for a financial contribution from the EU, procedures would be put in place to ensure that Member States adhere to jointly agreed rules and take responsibility for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers entering their territory. The debate on the President’s initiative is to continue, on the basis of the very positive discussions at Tampere.
Development aid from the European Union and the Member States is crucial to eliminating the reasons for illegal migration. The crisis in the Mediterranean now at last shows us how important external relations are in the fight against illegal migration. The Global Approach to Migration and the principal measures focusing on Africa and the Mediterranean region, adopted by the European Council last December, provide a common framework within which the EU can act. This will strengthen cooperation between the Member States and increase dialogue with the countries of Africa and cooperation in the Mediterranean region as a whole. The European Council has asked the Commission to report back on the progress made by the end of this year.
A number of important initiatives have come out of the Global Approach. These include the ministerial meeting in Rabat in July, the initiatives by Frontex to develop Mediterranean coastal surveillance, and special operations to help Spain and Malta. The Presidency is promoting these initiatives, as well as the very important Commission proposal for a Regulation for establishing Rapid Border Intervention Teams (the ‘Rabit’ Regulation).
One of the Finnish Presidency’s main priorities is to develop a system for the integrated control of external borders and the adoption of a strategy on this. Furthermore, the Commission will be examining the relevant questions in the communication on illegal immigration presented in July coherently and thoroughly.
In order to fulfil the aims on illegal immigration set out at Tampere, a number of acts have already been passed which apply to the status of people long resident in a country, family reunification, granting residence permits to the victims of human trafficking, and admission for the purposes of study, vocational training, voluntary work and scientific research. Last January, the Commission adopted a policy plan on legal immigration in accordance with the mandate in the Hague Programme. This also takes account of the Lisbon Programme adopted in July last year.
Another major step forward is the framework programme on solidarity and management of migration flows for the period 2007-2013 and the four funds to be established under it: the European Refugee Fund, the External Borders Fund, the European Return Fund and the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals. The Council is working towards an agreement at first reading with the European Parliament on these important instruments.
The Presidency realises that the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning third country nationals who are illegally resident is very important for a common repatriation policy, but we are also aware of the issues that have to be resolved in order to reach a compromise on the proposals within a reasonable period of time. In partnership with the European Parliament and the Commission, the Council has already decided to intensify the debate to bring deliberations on the proposal to a conclusion.
On the matter of asylum, a discussion on how current EU asylum rules might be improved is expected to be launched. The Commission is to draft a Green Paper on the future of the common European asylum system. This was also discussed at Tampere. It is the goal of the Presidency to ensure that the current minimum standards are transformed into genuine common rules on asylum and subsidiary protection. Practical cooperation between Member States on asylum issues also needs to be reinforced. The Council is expecting the Commission to put forward its proposal on this matter. The Council is also expecting the Commission to put forward a legislative proposal in the near future with regard to extending long-term residential status to refugees and to those who have gained subsidiary protection status.
Increased transparency in the work of the Union is a key aim. In June, the European Council agreed on measures to enhance transparency. The Finnish Presidency stresses the vital importance of transparency, and proposes actively to take forward the debate on transparency on the basis of the Green Paper. The transparency banner was also waved vigorously at Tampere.
Finally, with regard to the secret detention facilities mentioned in a speech by the President of the United States of America in early September, I wish to reassure Parliament that the Council is aware of the possible implications. At a sitting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council in September, ministers expressed their commitment to combating terrorism effectively using all the legal means and tools available to them. Terrorism is simply a threat to a system of values based on the rule of law.
Human rights and humanitarian standards have to be adhered to in the fight against terrorism. As I said at a meeting in August in London, not one victory must go to terrorism or to their efforts to undermine our fundamental rights and values. At the JHA Council in July, I said that I thought it was essential that the Member States should also encourage a report on CIA flights carrying prisoners to be produced, in order to strengthen the basis of more confidential and viable cooperation on security.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry that my speech has gone on for so long, but I have been involved in parliamentary work for 24 years now. When you get a chance to speak to such an agreeable gathering, you can feel like saying a bit too much, but I would like to say in conclusion that our citizens expect the European Union to deliver security, more effective decision-making and the ability to respond to new challenges as a matter of course. They will also insist that we should be able to fight organised crime and terrorism and control migration flows and our common external borders effectively. It is our responsibility and a challenge to parliamentary competence, both in the European Parliament and the national parliaments, to respond together to the demand being made of Europe that it should be a fair and safe place for everyone to live.
President. Thank you very much, Mr Rajamäki. The Council and the Commission have no time limit. They can therefore take the opportunity to speak for as long as they need or see fit, but there are still only twenty-four hours in the day.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, first of all, I would like to express my profound satisfaction at the excellent cooperation with the Finnish Presidency, in particular, Mr Rajamäki and Mrs Luhtanen, and with the European Parliament, particularly with the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Mr Cavada.
Implementing and further developing The Hague Programme is a joint goal. This calls for effective decision-making and requires clear political priorities to make a real difference. The strategic political goal remains striking the right balance between improving citizens’ security and promoting and defending people’s individual rights. As you know, last week in Tampere, we discussed the main challenges in the area of freedom, security and justice and how best to address them.
It is clear that the fight against terrorism and the management of migration flows are currently the main priorities for the European Union. As I stressed in Tampere, I consider that our efforts in the fight against terrorism at European level need to focus on key areas such as fighting radicalisation and recruitment, the misuse of the internet by terrorists, the prevention and detection of the misuse of explosives, the protection of critical infrastructures, bio-preparedness and transport security.
I am also convinced that any new security measure, especially in relation to air transport, should not bring about a disproportionate reaction which, in my view, would hand victory to terrorism. Security is at the centre of my action and we will assess carefully the effect and proportionality of any decision taken in that field. The fight against terrorism and the defence of individual rights should go hand in hand.
As regards migration, the Commission decided to set up a Commissioners’ Group on Migration Issues. I have the privilege of coordinating that group, which brings together all the policy areas relevant to migration management: from justice and home affairs to development, employment, education and training, regional policy, economic issues, external relations and European neighbourhood policy. That comprehensive approach involves legal and illegal immigration, as well as integration. Solidarity, in the form of financial support and the deployment of experts and equipment to our shared borders, is also an essential element of this approach. While the focus is clearly on migration from Africa, such an approach has to take into account migratory movement from other regions of the world, particularly from our eastern neighbours, some of the countries from which many kinds of illegal trafficking originate.
In the field of illegal immigration, we have, as you know, recently taken many practical measures, particularly in relation to migration flows affecting southern Member States of the European Union. Frontex, in particular, has been very active in coordinating assistance to the Member States in question, for example the Canary Islands, and further operations are planned in the short term in the central Mediterranean area.
Solidarity means practical help to Member States under pressure. We need funds, equipment, boats, helicopters and aeroplanes. For example, for the period 2007-2013, the Frontex Agency will have EUR 272 million, which I deem insufficient to deal with the growing phenomenon of migration. Next year the agency’s budget will be some EUR 21 million. I hope that Parliament will agree to a further increase in the financial envelope.
Additional financial support has been provided to the Member States most affected, in particular Spain, Malta and Italy, via the ARGO programme. In that regard, I should like to mention that last week the Commission decided to fund six emergency projects in the above countries.
The Commission has also adopted a package of measures to help Mauritania in its efforts to contain the flow of illegal migrants to the Canary Islands under the Rapid Reaction Mechanism. We shall do the same concerning other important partners in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Senegal.
As regards the management of the southern external maritime border, I presented to the informal Tampere Council a set of recommendations for operational measures to be taken in the short term, that is, before the summer of 2007. Those recommendations include: firstly, the setting-up of an operational command centre in the relevant regions to coordinate a Mediterranean coastal patrol network; secondly, exploring the establishment of a European surveillance system in order to link up the existing national surveillance systems; thirdly, making the pooling of assets a reality with equipment made available by all Member States to be put at the disposal, at short notice, of a Member State requesting assistance; fourthly, exploring options for the creation of a team of asylum experts in close cooperation with international organisations, above all the United Nations; fifthly, making the maximum and best use of current and future financial instruments.
The above measures aim to strengthen the Community’s capacity to manage and prevent the kind of situations we have seen this year, and should be taken in parallel with the implementation of the global approach on migration adopted by the European Council last December. It is a matter of ensuring an immediate political response based on tangible European solidarity – and I stress the word ‘tangible’ – and a sharing of responsibilities and burdens. That means, as recently stressed by President Barroso and by myself at Tampere, it is of the utmost importance that all Member States continue working together in a spirit of solidarity, not least to assist those southern Member States most affected today by illegal immigration from Africa. It must be absolutely clear that it is up to Member States to provide the assets required to make the joint operations a success. We have made a start, but just a start. The size of the problem, however, is such that much more work is needed.
In that regard, I also hope that from next spring the European Union can make use of the Rapid Border Intervention Teams, whereby teams of national experts, under the coordination of Frontex, will provide quick technical and operational assistance to Member States in need.
Addressing migration in a comprehensive manner also entails developing a structural approach and reinforcing the inclusion of migration in European external policies. This includes looking at the root causes of migration and development issues.
The Commission is making serious efforts to make migration an integral part of its development policy and is engaging in particular with African countries on this matter. In particular, we must give priority to the implementation of the action plan agreed in Rabat last July and to the preparation of a successful European-African conference on migration with the African Union. It is hoped that it will take place in November in Tripoli, Libya.
We should also strengthen our cooperation with North African countries, in particular Algeria, Morocco and Libya, on migration issues, including the issue of international protection, which necessitates a regional response. In this regard, both EU Member States and North African countries must take responsibility for those in need of international protection, including asylum seekers.
Refugee protection is another important part of my portfolio and I am happy to announce to you that two specific regional programmes will start in the coming weeks. We should also ensure that illegal migrants are returned to their countries. In this respect, the Commission is ready to support the efforts of Member States politically, diplomatically and financially, while fully respecting people’s individual dignity.
We should also not forget another important element in fighting illegal immigration: the need to step up the fight against illegal work. It is a key pull factor for illegal immigration. As mentioned in July’s Commission communication on illegal migration, we are currently considering drafting a legislative instrument to harmonise sanctions against employers of illegally resident migrants. Obviously, Member States would have to take immediate measures in this direction, so as to address the issue of illegal work.
In relation to legal economic migration, I must emphasise that the implementation of the Policy Plan on Legal Migration is a priority for the Commission and for me personally. By eliminating illegal work and creating admission procedures for legal migrants, Europe will set up a virtuous circle, or, should I say, a positive structure of incentives.
The Commission is convinced of the necessity of a common approach to managing economic migration as an additional means of achieving the Lisbon objectives and tackling the negative effects of demographic ageing, in order to foster the European economy and competitiveness. In particular, to contribute to economic growth, it is fundamental that Europe becomes, first and foremost, a real pole of attraction for highly skilled migrants. The idea of proposing a directive on the conditions for admission to the European Union for highly skilled workers, including the possibility of a European green card, responds to this economic necessity.
Europe continues to receive low-skilled or unskilled labour only, while the United States, Canada and Australia, for example, are able to attract talented migrants. However, at the same time, I think proper measures should be taken to avoid the growing risk of a brain-drain from poorer countries. A proposal for a directive on the rights of legal migrants in employment constitutes the other pillar of the Commission’s policy in this field for the next year. Both proposals will be presented in the second half of 2007, under the Portuguese Presidency.
Last but not least, I should like to stress another important element of European immigration policy: the integration of migrants. As highlighted in the Common Agenda for Integration, which I put forward in September 2005, greater integration efforts are crucial for a successful common European immigration policy. I strongly hope that after the Council in Luxembourg has endorsed this global European approach towards migration, the same European common approach will also be approved at the highest political level by the European Council in Lahti.
Let me now turn to the ‘passerelle clause’. In Tampere, as Minister Rajamäki and Mr Cavada have just said, we also discussed how to improve decision-making in the field of security and justice, in particular by using the ‘passerelle’ or ‘bridging clause’. As you know, the Commission’s position has always been very close to Parliament’s on this issue, as we consider that the bridging clause represents an appropriate and important tool for the Union and Member States to ensure greater efficiency, transparency and accountability of the decision-making process in addition to greater democratic legitimacy, given the stronger role of Parliament.
The debate in Tampere has been very open and constructive. All the Member States, even those that are still reluctant, agreed on the need to move forward. While some of them expressed fears that a decision now on the ‘passerelle clause’ would pre-empt the debate on relaunching the constitutional process, I believe this is not the case.
We will be among the first to welcome a positive outcome of the exploration the German Presidency intends to carry out in 2007 and we will give them our full support. Nevertheless, we have to prepare ourselves for a situation where the ‘passerelle’ clause may be the only way to address the urgent need that all of us share. I agree that we need the Constitution, but if we wait we may find ourselves paralysed. In any case, as you know, when the Constitution comes into force the ‘passerelle’ clause will be incorporated into it automatically.
I agreed with Minister Rajamäki when he said in Tampere that Europe is like a bicycle: either it goes ahead or it falls to the ground. And it was only by going ahead faster than others that my compatriot Bettini won the Cycling World Championship a few days ago.
We must, therefore, continue this very important political discussion, building upon the common goodwill shown by all Member States in Tampere. At the next Justice and Home Affairs Council, which takes place in a few days in Luxembourg, we will have a chance to decide on how to move this important dossier forward.
Finally, citizens do want more Europe. Europe would then be more effective in taking decisions. Practitioners, judges, prosecutors and police authorities also want more effective instruments to fight organised crime and terrorism. To be frank, we cannot allow civil society to move faster than our political strategies and policies. If we want to be credible, we have to respond now and not only after tragic events, as has happened in the past.
President. We thank the Vice-President of the Commission for his explanation of what happened in Tampere and for his optimistic view of what took place there.
We shall now hear the opinions of the political groups. Please bear in mind that the Members’ speaking time is restricted.
Eva Klamt, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the management of migratory flows, and hence the control of immigration into the EU, is among the most pressing problems with which we have to deal, and it goes without saying that doing so involves looking beyond our narrow national horizons, but that does not mean that we can limit ourselves to a European analysis or to European approaches either. Cooperation with transit countries and countries of origin, and support given to them, are part of the solution, but what is also needed is an integrated approach, for immigration needs to be regulated, and that cannot be a matter for internal policy alone; solutions can be found only by joint efforts across various policy areas.
The Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats has for a long time been calling for immigration policy that takes account of the needs and rights of other Member States. For example, one cannot go ahead with a mass legalisation without informing or consulting others, only to seek help from the EU once that action begins to suck other migrants in. It is fundamental that national immigration policy must bear in mind its effects on other Member States.
It has to be said, though, that making a policy area – in this case, that of immigration – part of Community policy-making, which involves making it subject to codecision, is not a panacea. There are certainly many problems that affect us all, but at least an equal number that are specifically national, regional or even local in character. For many, one of the attractions of a Community policy on economic migration is that it not only extends their own powers, but could also help with the enforcement of an immigration policy for which there was no majority support at national level, but that motivation takes no account of the Member States’ right to adequate solutions; no policy can succeed unless the citizens of our Member States have a hand in framing it.
Martin Schulz, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we, in our group, have spent a great deal of time working out how we were going to approach today’s debate. The last time I took the floor of this House to speak in a debate on internal and security policy was when I spoke on the European arrest warrant and the plan for a European Public Prosecutor’s office, following which I had an enormous row with the President-in-Office of the Council. I have no desire to repeat that experience today, but I have to tell the President-in-Office and the Commissioner that I am not going to mince my words either.
Looking around the Chamber, I can see Mr Kirkhope, Mr Pirker, Mrs Klamt, Mr Watson, Mrs Lambert and Mrs Roure; like me, all of them were sitting here six years ago, when we all said exactly the same things. At the time, Mr Watson was the Committee chairman, and the Commissioner was a certain Mr Vitorino, who, by way of a follow-up to Tampere, presented us with what was called a scoreboard, which incorporated all the measures that you, Mr President-in-Office, and you, Commissioner, have described. The scoreboard owed its name to the fact that it explicitly specified timeframes, with measure A to be transposed by the Member States within period B, and the Commission’s report to reach the Council within period C, and so on.
Why, then, six years on, are we again sitting in this House discussing the same issues, the passerelle clause, for example? Six years ago, we were full of optimism when we discussed the provision in the Treaty of Nice to the effect that, from 1999 onwards, and entering into effect five years later – that is, in 2004 – and subject to a unanimous vote in Council, the policy areas that we are discussing today should become subject to the codecision procedure, yet, two years later, nothing has happened yet.
Mrs Klamt made an important point when she said that we must not, where integration or the processing of asylum applications are concerned, interfere with the powers of national, local and regional authorities, but nor can we tolerate a situation in which Community rules and regulations are indispensable yet not forthcoming. The streams of migrants reaching Europe’s southern coasts, which we are discussing today, will not be managed by restrictive measures alone; they call for an approach combining measures against organised crime, measures to give immigrants legal status and a coordinated policy of integration. That is not news to any of us. Why, then, are the Member States refusing to implement the proposals that Commissioner Frattini has just described? I think I know the answer to that question. The reason why they are refusing to do it is that these policy areas – the security of external borders, asylum, the law on citizenship, freedom of establishment and movement, police and justice policy – give them an opportunity to say to their citizens: ‘It is we – not anyone else – who hold the reins of power in this state.’ For fifteen years, the states have shrunk back from the abrogation of sovereignty that the transfer of such rights to the European Union represents, and I can understand why they do, for it involves, to a degree, the surrender of national power, but this surrender of a bit of power must be weighed against the prospect of migration, people-trafficking, uncontrolled immigration and the problems associated with them being allowed to drag on even longer. For ten years, the interior ministers of the European Union have failed to do anything about this, and this state of affairs must be brought to an end.
That is why the approach to which our question refers, and the answers we have been given today – particularly by Commissioner Frattini – are right, but it is time for action at long last.
Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I should like to thank Mr Cavada for his oral question, the opportunity for this debate, and the excellent work that he and his colleagues do in their committee.
I had the honour to chair that committee at the time of the Council meeting in 1999 in Tampere. I have observed the process from Tampere to Tampere. It has been seven lean years. Rather like a critic once said of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot: ‘It is a two-act play in which nothing happens, twice.’
I salute the efforts of Commissioner Frattini and of the Finnish Presidency in trying to coax and cajole the Member States forward. Mr Rajamäki spoke of breathing new life into the spirit of Tampere. It is desperately needed. But the fact is that the country I know best threw a spanner into the works when it insisted on having three pillars. Other countries are now blocking the process of repair. Unless we are able to bring in the footbridge – the ‘passerelle clause’ – we will never have a credible policy in justice and home affairs. We will continue with a policy like a push-bike when what we need is a Ducati.
Member States sit there in their medieval fastnesses with the drawbridges firmly up. In the name of national sovereignty they are enhancing global anarchy. Our citizens demand better.
In the early period of building the European Union, political leaders were ahead of public opinion. They saw leadership as painting a vision of the Europe they wanted and leading people towards it. That can be a dangerous strategy, but far less dangerous than being in the position – as you pointed out, Commissioner – of being behind public opinion. Our citizens are asking: why is there no immigration policy to prevent the human tragedy we see on our southern shores? Why are we not sharing criminal intelligence in the fight against terrorism or the fight against drugs? Why is there no access to justice for victims of cross-border crime or cross-border marital breakdown? When ministers meet, as Abba Eban once said in a different context, they ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’.
We want to see more emphasis on European values. We may have no constitution, but we have a Charter of Fundamental Rights. Mr Rajamäki, you said that human rights are at the top of the Council’s concerns and fully taken into account. Are you sure? What about the CIA secret prisons saga, where this House was right to set up a committee on rendition to see whether we need to use Article 7? What about the PNR issue, where the 2007 agreement to replace the sticking-plaster solution you have devised this month must be in tandem with the framework decision on the protection of personal data? And what about minimum procedural guarantees for suspects in criminal proceedings: why is that issue still at the bottom of the in-tray?
Of course there is some progress. But too often the Union looks like the mime artist Marcel Marceau; he appears to be climbing a wall but actually he is going nowhere. I want Mr Frattini and the Presidency to take to the Council on 6 October the message that Europe demands better.
Monica Frassoni, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance has been in favour of these topics becoming part of Community procedure ever since the Treaty of Maastricht invented the pillar system, which in theory was only meant to be temporary but in reality has proved to be fairly definitive.
Procedures are not everything, however, and I wonder what policy will now be implemented on these topics by Parliament, the Council and the Commission. The priority seems to be that of reducing, rejecting, constraining and eliminating, and it is curious to note that this debate began with the Commissioner speaking about terrorism and maintaining that security must be our top priority. I believe that this speaks volumes, not least about what many of our leaders think constitutes a priority.
Despite the borders, the terrible risks, and the ever-increasing tolerance of violations of international law, we will not succeed in stopping immigration, and that has to be a point on which we are all quite clear. Frankly, Commissioner, I do not like it when you overuse the word ‘solidarity’, especially when you mean ‘helping the Member States to refuse entry at the borders to people who arrive in a desperate state, without any rights’.
I should also like to point out that, by adopting this approach, we have by no means eliminated the risk that, if we refuse entry at the borders to people arriving by boat, we will be seriously breaching the right of many of them to seek asylum, insofar as they are being sent straight back to the place from which they came.
Mass legalisations, which are condemned not only by Mrs Klamt, but also by Mr Frattini, are a direct result of the policy that says ‘zero immigration is possible’, but that actually hides a reality, namely that we need immigrants.
Mr Frattini, Mr Rajamäki, I do not know whether it is true that the majority of the illegal immigrants who come to our countries have no qualifications. I know of cases of history teachers and electricians: qualified people who come here but who cannot find jobs for qualified workers, because they obviously become mixed up with people who have no qualifications whatsoever; in my opinion, saying that the problem is one of depriving developing countries of people who can, instead, help those countries to get out of their underdeveloped state is the wrong message for the European Union to be sending out.
Finally, Mr Rajamäki, Mr Frattini, I should like it if you could give your ideas on the topic of agreements with third countries. My group and I are very concerned about this issue; we know that some of the Member States, such as France, Spain and Italy, are using understandings between police forces to secretly negotiate agreements with third countries that give no guarantees whatsoever regarding respect for people’s rights; we know full well that those countries very often deliberately violate the rights not only of their own citizens, but also of migrants. This is particularly true of Libya, to which Mr Frattini has just stated his desire to donate a large sum of money. Personally, I should like it if he were to spend a little time explaining what kind of democracy and publicity is required for agreements such as this one.
Giusto Catania, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it seems to me that, after the failure of last week's Informal Summit in Tampere, the decision has been taken not only to stop pedalling, but perhaps also to lean the bicycle against the wall. Today’s debate also shares this characteristic: the fight against terrorism, the CIA flights, PNR and police cooperation are all being mixed up with immigration.
Only when we realise that the topic of immigration must be dissociated from repressive policies, measures to criminalise migrants and the methods used to combat terrorism and organised crime will it then be possible to hold a serious debate on a common European Union policy on immigration.
We must also ban from our debate any talk of an invasion: the label 'invasion' is untrue and unfounded; we all know that only 15% of illegal immigrants come by sea from Africa and that all the rest come by land or by air. This is the case in Spain and Italy too, even allowing for the numbers of migrants who arrive in the Canary Islands or Lampedusa.
We need to start again using legal channels. As the Commission Green Paper informed us: ‘We need 20 million immigrant workers by 2030.’ So let us take steps to let these people in, instead of leaving them to drown at sea. We do not understand what Frontex did this summer to prevent people from dying.
Europe cannot become known for turning immigrants away en masse, nor can we allow the Atlantic and the Mediterranean to become open-air cemeteries.
I have a proposal to make to Mr Frattini: let us build a monument, an eternal reminder of the migrants drowned at sea. In a few months’ time, it will be the 10th anniversary of the first recognised drowning of migrants at sea, when a boat carrying almost 400 emigrants sank off Porto Palo, between Malta and Sicily. Let us make a humanitarian gesture! Let us build a monument, a symbolic collective tomb for the unknown men and women who died at sea because they were seeking a better future.
As a great Roman poet might have said, ‘let us build a collective monument more lasting than bronze’. When it comes to holding a serious debate on immigration, this is probably the most powerful, most practical gesture that Europe can now make.
Romano Maria La Russa, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I have already taken the floor on many occasions in this House in order to stress the urgent need for a common immigration policy, and I am pleased to note the recent initiatives undertaken at Community level and the recent release of funds intended for crisis-hit countries.
The gradual realisation on the part of the Member States – which are now convinced, albeit belatedly perhaps, of the countless tragic deaths in the Mediterranean – that migration no longer just affects the States on the edge of the EU and that the general objectives of economic growth can only be achieved within a general climate of security is anything but trivial. This realisation may at last persuade them to take an equal share in the responsibility and financial burden of managing our borders. This is a real commitment, and it is also demonstrated by the increased financial resources that the EU will make available over the next seven years for the purposes of consolidating an area of freedom, security and justice.
Another positive aspect is the creation of a specific programme aimed at controlling migratory flows with ad hoc funds intended for repatriations, refugees and integration. Equally important is the creation of a border management agency, which unfortunately still does not have enough staff, but I hope that it will gradually benefit from more attention and funds.
I hope that, by taking this step, we will be able to create common minimum standards for combating illegal immigration and controlling legal immigration and that we will be able to draft a credible policy that respects the rights of individuals. However, a credible policy can only be rigorous; there is no place for a European policy that promotes mass legalisations and that indiscriminately hands out citizenship rights.
It is widely known these days not only that legalisations do not allow problems to be resolved without immigrants' circumstances being improved, but that they nearly always exacerbate them instead, merely encouraging marginalisation and widespread crime, which often result in terrorism.
Finally, being credible means reaffirming the ideals of solidarity and of safeguarding the EU’s own freedoms, and tying this to respect for the law. The EU will never refuse to help the needy and those who genuinely want to integrate, but when it comes to those who want to export violence, culture, values and religions, the 'zero tolerance' principle must take effect; we may not like it, but sometimes it is crucial.
Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, last week’s informal summit in Tampere made one thing clear: the Member States fundamentally disagree on how to tackle illegal immigration. Everyone can see that a solution is needed, but opinions differ on how this should be done. That is why the immigration issue is something that Member States are keen to consign to the European negotiation tables, and that is how history gets to repeat itself.
In the late 1990s, the Netherlands and Germany, facing major problems with the influx of asylum seekers, insisted on solidarity and a distribution of the burden. France, Spain and Portugal, however, obstructed every solution at European level, while northern Member States now fail to react to requests for help. It is at the European level, though, that the solution must be found. A common market with a shared space in which citizens can move freely requires consistent security of its external borders and regulated access to that space.
European policy for illegal immigration is necessary, provided that countries stop acting independently. If the Spanish authorities can give 700 000 illegal immigrants an amnesty without consulting other Member States, then Spain cannot expect help from other Member States.
Finally, President Bush has acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons. To this day, though, it is unclear in which countries these prisons were situated, and whether any of them were in the European Union. I should like to hear from the Council and Commission what they intend to do in order to dispel this uncertainty.
Jean-Marie Le Pen (NI). – (FR) Mr President, by regularising the status of one and a half million illegal immigrants in 2005, Spain and Italy have provoked a huge influx of people from Africa, the continent nearest to Western Europe and something of a suburb of Paris.
Spain, rightly accused of irresponsibility in regularising en masse the status of illegal immigrants, argues in response that the majority of Africans arriving in the Canaries – 25 000 since the beginning of the year – are French speakers whose intention it is to travel on to other countries. That being the case, one can appreciate why the truly disastrous Schengen agreement, applied since 1985, needs to be repealed, as it enables any illegal immigrants arriving in Spain, Italy or elsewhere, their status newly regularised, to enter France and benefit from all the social benefits provided there.
Having missed eight of the last ten Council meetings for ministers of the interior, Mr Sarkozy is in no real position to criticise Spain, and this at a time when France is in favour of abolishing the requirement of unanimity in judicial and police cooperation, that is to say is in favour of abandoning one of its sovereign powers. It is crucial to be able to monitor our own borders at a time when immigration is a worldwide phenomenon. The task of monitoring thousands of kilometres of eminently porous coastline or land borders cannot be entrusted to others, and the Member States’ shortcomings in this regard cannot be made up for by Frontex, this European setup that is supposed to monitor Europe’s borders.
Unless we deal with the problem of immigration at source and come up with a large-scale development policy, we shall continue to play host to millions of immigrants who, little by little, will destabilise the Europe we know and finally swamp it. The European institutions are merely accelerating this downward spiral by favouring an immigration policy referred to hypocritically by Mr Sarkozy as ‘selective immigration’. The nations of Europe should take charge of their own affairs again, as Switzerland has just done, and protect themselves against the migratory invasion that has only just begun.
Jaime Mayor Oreja (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating Mr Frattini on having quite rightly once again used a term that is crucial at this point in the construction of the area of freedom, security and justice: the term priorities.
In this regard, I would like to say that we need a great debate and a great result, which cannot be delayed at this point in the construction of the European Union, because we are often talking about concrete measures, but we need to define what is most important. In one decade, what will be the final objective in terms of the competences of the European Union and the Member States with regard to the two issues that Mr Frattini has mentioned: immigration and radical Islamist terrorism?
That debate cannot be postponed, and, until it takes place and until we have a result, we will not be able to make the correct and appropriate progress in these areas. It is a pre-constitutional debate. It is undoubtedly the thing that creates the most fear today amongst Europeans in terms of their future. It is therefore a pre-constitutional debate and therefore, Mr Frattini and representatives of the Council, it is something that cannot be postponed under any circumstances.
A European Union in one decade is impossible without an immigration policy. It is impossible to conceive of a United States of America with as many immigration policies as it has States. It is impossible to accept that with regard to an emerging phenomenon such as Islamic terrorism – which has dared to move on from placing bombs on a bus to placing bombs on a plane, from attacking cartoons to directly attacking the Pope, that is, an emerging phenomenon – the European Union and its institutions do not yet have a political role that the citizens can see.
It may be little, it may be enough or it may be a lot, but the serious problem is that the European citizens do not know what the European Union does, either in the field of immigration or in the field of terrorism. This is therefore a debate that cannot be postponed. This is the pre-constitutional debate yet to be held and it is the great debate that Europeans will hold over the coming months.
Martine Roure (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, our debate is taking place soon after the Tampere II ministerial meeting, at which the Member States tackled issues fundamental to implementing a genuine European area of freedom, security and justice.
I am happy, then, that the issue of the bridging clause is finally up for discussion by the Council. We are of, course, in favour of communitising the whole of the third pillar, particularly where legal immigration is concerned – a process that will finally help stop a number of Member States from blocking matters. I would therefore ask the Council to continue with its discussions, which will, I hope, enable this bridging clause eventually to be activated.
I also wish to raise the issue of the agreement on transferring personal data in connection with flights, otherwise known as the Passenger Names Records (PNR) agreement. Discussions with the US authorities are under way, but I understand that these authorities want still more. Could Vice-President Frattini tell us whether these negotiations will lead to a common agreement before the end of the month, which is not far off? We agreed on a two-stage procedure whereby the content would be discussed again in 2007. Will the Americans really also be proceeding on that basis? I should like, in this connection, to address a remark to the Council and point out that the European Parliament is now awaiting a firm commitment from the Council regarding the framework decision on data protection.
At the Tampere ministerial meeting, the Council appears to have gone back on the strong commitments on immigration made by the European Union seven years ago, particularly when it comes to putting in place a common immigration policy and common asylum system between now and 2010. In this area, too, the deadline is close. My group emphasises that better management of the external borders can only be one aspect of our common immigration policy. No one can remain indifferent to the difficulties and the humanitarian crisis presented at our borders, particularly in southern Europe, or to the huge influx of migrants and asylum seekers.
We therefore want to see European solidarity strengthened. We ask that Europe share the burdens and responsibilities of its immigration policy. We also want to see partnerships implemented with the countries of origin and transit, based above all on respect for both fundamental rights and the right of asylum.
We must not, however, in any instance allow our borders to be controlled externally. We want a comprehensive and transversal approach to immigration problems. The fight against illegal immigration must be accompanied by practical proposals, whether they be in favour of opening legal immigration channels or of real and effective co-development. We must fight against the underlying causes of migration in the shape of poverty and conflicts.
We must allow third countries in difficulties to develop, and migration must also be perceived as a positive factor for development, helping to reduce poverty. We propose, for example, putting in place financial support for immigrants in their countries of origin. To conclude, we want to see active exchange between countries of the North and those of the South and to be made aware of how the proposals in this area put forward in Rabat will be put into practice.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, as the immigration problem is one of the biggest challenges to face us so far in 2006, one would think that all Member States would have been aware of the urgency of this problem by now, but nothing seems to be further from the truth. The reports on last week’s meeting in Tampere were enough to make one squirm. Indecisiveness reigned supreme. A truly humanitarian tragedy is unfolding along the Union's external borders, partly on account of the Member States’ failing policy, and I have to say, I am deeply embarrassed.
The Council’s primary aim – if one can speak of such a thing existing at all – is to reinforce the external borders. Frontex is the key word, but it relies on the resources and manpower supplied by the Member States, and those resources are still extremely limited. Moreover, it is an illusion to think that the flows of immigrants can be controlled by reinforced external borders alone, not that those are something we should want either. We must look at the reasons why immigrants choose to leave their countries in droves. The link between immigration and development is paramount. Large-scale and strategic investments in the countries of origin are necessary. You might well want to call it a modern Marshall Plan.
Mr President-in-Office of the Council, you should follow the example set by Commissioner Frattini, who has, on a number of occasions, asked you to consider a total package of measures, which alone will enable the Union to have any impact, so I urge you to realise your ambitions, as enshrined in the Tampere programme and confirmed at The Hague, to get stuck into this so important link between immigration and development, establish those cooperation agreements with the countries of origin and transit, draft, as a matter of urgency, a European return policy according to which everyone is entitled to be treated with respect, launch those information campaigns, make sure this European green card becomes a reality, and deal with your own black market in labour. I should like to urge the Council, to use its own metaphor, to pedal as fast as it can.
IN THE CHAIR: MR FRIEDRICH Vice-President
Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, exactly a year ago, more than 11 and perhaps as many as 16 migrants were shot dead in Ceuta and Melilla. Were the bullets Spanish or Moroccan? We do not know, and no inquiry has been conducted. All that we know at present is that one of those killed was from Cameroon. As for the others, no one has any idea who they were.
Have we learned the lessons of this tragedy? Not at all, because, in July, three other migrants died – in Melilla, I think – and pressure continues to be exerted on Morocco to sign a readmission agreement even though we have, since then, seen evidence every day that police roundups and deportations into the desert are continuing in this country, as well as violations of the fundamental rights of migrants, including those with papers from the High Commissioner for Refugees.
What lessons have we learned from this tragedy? The pressure we continue to put on Morocco has simply caused migrants to take ever more perilous routes further to the south. A few years ago, the idea of reaching the Canaries in small motor boats would have been absolutely unthinkable. Today, it is a reality experienced by many. We know how many of these people arrive in the Canary Islands. We do not know how many left Africa. Thousands, perhaps. Who are they, and what are their names? How many people have perished in this way in Mauritanian or Senegalese waters?
What is the policy in question, and what, Mr Frattini, do I hear you say in your interviews? I hear you say that you want a European armada, with patrols, aircraft, boats and military helicopters; that you want, indeed, to protect our borders. That is what I read and what I hear you say, Mr Frattini.
Why this bellicose language? Have we gone to war against migrants? European Union policy has entered an absolutely vicious circle. We are buying third countries’ collaboration in supervising their own frontiers, that is to say we are shutting migrants into their own countries.
Willy Meyer Pleite (GUE/NGL). – (ES) Mr President, Mr Frattini, Mr Rajamäki, the thousands of people who have died in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean have made a mistake, and that is to have been born people. If they had been born goods or currency – if possible the pound, the dollar or the euro – the European Union would have reacted in a different, very hospitable, manner. They were born people, however, my friends. They have committed the terrible crime of leaving their countries to escape hunger or war and to try to live in peace. That is the crime they have committed.
I would beg the Commission and the Council never again to discuss terrorism and immigration at the same time. It is an affront to civilisation. I would beg you never to do it again. Because if you do, you encourage speeches like that of Mr Le Pen – fascist, racist and xenophobic – or actions such as those of countries that are European, but not members of the Union, such as Switzerland, which are very welcoming when it comes to financial flows, banking flows, my friend, but when it comes to people, they even call into question the right to request asylum. That should not be the European Union’s message. I therefore believe that we must entirely change our approach. They are people and they deserve a civilised response.
Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, I would like to raise the issue of so-called forced labour camps. One such camp became public knowledge a few months ago. It was located in the south of Italy and run by an international criminal gang who forced foreign labourers, mostly Poles, to work and even went as far as murdering some of those who tried to escape.
I should also like to take this opportunity to say a few words of praise for the actions of a certain Italian lady who has spontaneously taken it upon herself to care for the grave of an unknown worker who was murdered there. She is an old lady with a low income. Her gesture has been reported in the Italian and Polish press, and I would like to convey my deep gratitude to her.
This really is a very serious problem. It is likely that the camp discovered is not the only one of its kind. Indeed, there are many indications in the press that similar camps probably exist in other countries. It is therefore incumbent on us to place this matter at the top of our agenda.
Nigel Farage (IND/DEM). – Mr President, the ability to control one’s borders and decide who should be a citizen in your country is one of the most basic characteristics of a nation state, and in that regard the UK is very lucky because we are not part of the continent of Europe. We are an island, we have our own natural borders and it is for that reason that I, and the vast majority of the British population, do not want immigration to be controlled at a European level, believing it far better that we organise it for ourselves. But while I am here listening to these debates I am struck that too often we are talking about immigration from third countries, from outside the European Union coming in; we are not talking about what is going on between the Member States.
Just yesterday there was an announcement that two very poor eastern European countries – Romania and Bulgaria – will join the EU. Well, it is perfectly obvious that if you have the free movement of peoples between countries with vastly differing levels of wealth it will lead to a huge migratory flow; all of which makes me wonder how on earth Commission President Barroso can have decided that he is going to make a Romanian the new Immigration Commissioner!
This debate goes to the very heart of what the EU is all about, and it is becoming perfectly obvious that no nation can control its own borders, decide its own immigration policy, and at the same time remain part of the European Union. When this argument gets out there amongst the peoples of Europe, it will be a potentially explosive issue, because once again we have the political class here in the institutions of Brussels and Strasbourg heading in one direction, and public opinion demanding that you head in completely the opposite direction. You may have got away with it on previous policies, but on the question of immigration you will not. You have been warned!
Mario Borghezio (NI). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the first decision made by Mr Prodi’s new government in Italy was to legalise the situation of 500 000 illegal immigrants, and with the family reunion policies that figure will easily reach at least a million. The Zapatero government in Spain has done the same, legalising 700 000 illegal immigrants. The other European Union countries are therefore entitled to wonder what the aim of such measures might be, other than political demagogy.
We have to wonder why the European institutions never dare to insist that these governments face their responsibilities. In Italy, however, the Prodi government has gone further, even altering Community law by making it possible to claim political asylum even in situations that do not fulfil the strict criteria, which we endorse and which are legally required for recognition of political asylum – a fundamental aspect of the freedoms associated with human rights. The privileges of political asylum are even granted to immigrants who do not come from unsafe countries where human rights are not respected, or from war zones. They just need to have applied for asylum or, if their application has been rejected, to be waiting for the end of the lengthy appeals procedure.
These policies run counter to the strict immigration policy being sketched out today by the European institutions, not least since we are talking about tightening up the asylum principle. It could be said, however, that such measures may become a means of getting round the rules, which are designed precisely to keep the problem under control. So I say, thank you, Switzerland! Thank you, Christoph Blocker! Long live Switzerland! No more demagogy in Europe on immigration!
Carlos Coelho (PPE-DE). – (PT) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Mr Frattini, ladies and gentlemen, once again we are taking stock here in this Chamber of the construction of the area of freedom, security and justice. We should acknowledge that whereas much has been done, much besides remains to be done. I refer to the favourable comments made by Mr Rajamäki as regards the conclusion of the Schengen Information System (SIS) dossier. I hope it will be possible to vote quickly for a compromise at first reading providing us with the legal instrument needed to implement the second generation of SIS.
I should also like to congratulate the Finnish Presidency for including the issue of immigration in the priorities for the forthcoming European Council. Hopefully, the Council will respond favourably to our request to broaden the codecision process to cover legal immigration and integration. We want to see more democratic legitimacy and a common European approach to migration that is based on the principles of cohesion and solidarity and that covers the integration of immigrants living legally in Europe.
I was pleased to hear you speak about the recent events in the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean, Mr Rajamäki. Urgent, practical measures are needed in the area of maritime operational cooperation with a view to developing adequate surveillance capacities at our sea borders and to setting up rapid border intervention teams. I especially welcome Mr Frattini's remarks about the need to ensure that the Community instruments are given the necessary resources. Frontex, for example, must not be deprived of the financial resources it needs to carry out its work.
Lastly, immigration policy must cover the unremitting fight against illegal immigration and against the trafficking of human beings, the return of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin, the opening up of channels for legal immigration, and cooperation and support for the development of countries of origin. Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, we must condemn the extraordinary mass regularisation of immigrants, as happened in Spain in May of last year.
Enrique Barón Crespo (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by thanking Mr Cavada, who has inspired a debate on an absolutely crucial issue: the area of freedom, security and justice. I would like to focus on the issue of immigration.
Minister, seven years have passed since Tampere. I was there in a different capacity. Work began there on immigration and on a common policy relating to it, and today the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr Frattini, has made a speech full of passion and information in support of that policy.
I believe that this year the Commission has begun to react seriously and the assistance of a number of countries has contributed to that, particularly the countries most affected: the countries of the South.
It has made many promises for the future. While I agree with him on the need for a common policy and for the unified leadership and coordination that he has advocated in the Commission, I would like to say to Vice-President Frattini that ‘actions speak louder than words’.
In last year’s budget, which is being discharged, 80% of the heading corresponding to immigration has not been spent.
I would remind you that, when the events in the Canary Islands took place, the Commissioner’s spokesman said that there was no money. I would draw your attention to something else, and that is that the money needed cannot be taken from development cooperation, because that would mean robbing Peter to pay Paul. I believe that that is also important.
He has promised us an active policy of investments; I believe that, with regard to Africa, it is the ‘push effect' – which is the really important thing, since it is stupid to think that Africans spend all day reading the Official Journal of the European Communities or the official State bulletins of all of the countries – that must lead us to a common policy, to common immigration criteria and to an active policy with regard to our needs.
If we are to take a constructive approach, Mr President, that is what we must do. I welcome the step that has been taken, but I hope that it will have serious consequences for the future.
Alexander Alvaro (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, this is a difficult thing for me to say, but Mr Schulz is absolutely right in everything he has said. I do not think I have ever said that in this House before, and it does not seem likely that I will ever do it again, but he has spelled out where the problem lies, namely in balancing the sovereignty of the Member States against the Union’s capacity to act. How much are the Member States prepared to concede, and how much capacity to act do they want the EU to have?
This is aptly reflected in the saying to the effect that the spirit is willing, but the flesh weak. Perhaps, in this instance, it will be the German Presidency of the Council that will send out the signal that moves the European Union further ahead, but I have to say that I would like to see Finland and Portugal acting as particle accelerators, for Germany, although large, is sluggish; it is comparable with France in being a country with great traditions, but not much in the way of speed. Like an oil tanker, it is slow and unmanoeuvrable, and less innovative than countries like Finland where these matters are concerned, and so I ask that you help the German Presidency of the Council to make it easier to weigh up where the fundamental key issues are. On the subject of immigration, Günther Beckstein, the Bavarian Interior Minister, made a disastrous error when he claimed that it would not be too much to expect Spain to take in 25 000 people, for what matters is not whether or not it is reasonable that they should be expected; the real point is that the fate of people – people in desperate need – waiting offshore, is at stake.
As far as migration in search of work is concerned, the German Federal Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, made it abundantly clear that legal migration cannot be considered in isolation from the labour market, so we know that nothing is happening on that front either, and, as for the Human Rights Agency that is so important to you, what the German Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had to say about that was, in effect, ‘well, yes, all right, if we do not have any choice in the matter, but why do we have to have an agency to watch over our own fundamental rights?’ You can see, then, where the problem lies, so I ask you to put your particle-accelerating skills to use; you can enable Germany to make a good job of its term in the Council Presidency. At the moment, it is a prospect that fills me with foreboding.
Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE). – (ES) Mr President, I am delighted to see that there is so much consensus on the fundamental premise: that the phenomenon of immigration is a current and growing phenomenon and that it is not going to stop despite some people’s desire to put up barriers and walls in the sea.
What we need to do from now on, as others have said, is to regulate those migratory flows, but to regulate them on the basis of policy and, more specifically, on the basis of European policy. Let there be no doubt, the people who come to the Canaries are not coming to stay there. They are passing through the Canaries. It is an entry point to Europe; it would appear that some of our fellow Members from other countries have not yet understood that. They are not going to the Canaries for their holidays. It is a way of getting into Europe. That is where we have to provide the resources. We cannot leave the responsibility for dealing with this issue solely to the Spanish or Canary Islands authorities.
I do not therefore understand, and even less share, the reticence about using the passerelle procedure and communitising this issue from the point of view of collective responsibility. I do not understand why there is so much fear and reticence about accepting a European approach to an issue that cannot be seen in any other way.
Please allow me to add another concern. We must not employ an ostrich-like policy and delegate or transfer responsibility for these flows to countries that are well known for their lack of respect for human rights, such as Morocco or Libya, for example.
Ole Krarup (GUE/NGL). – (DA) Mr President, there are many of us who have for years been fighting for the basic principles of the rule of law. In particular, we have fought for legal certainty, which is of course protection in relation to the police and other forces of the state, especially for society’s underprivileged. The fight has, in general, been in vain. Never has legal certainty been exposed to such serious threats as it is today. The EU Treaty’s ‘area of freedom, security and justice’ is at best a myth or, rather, perhaps, a piece of juridico-political deception, concealing the systematic destruction of the rule of law. Moreover, none of the EU’s institutions has shown an ability to implement the eminently necessary change of course. There is only room for two messages. The first is that, without having committed crimes on the scale of the United States – with Guantánamo and other torture centres around the world – the EU and the Member States commit outrages every day against both terrorist suspects and refugees who have no rights. The ‘Fort Europe’ police state is dangerously near. Secondly, the EU’s institutions have no desire to find any explanation for the two basic problems that are at the root of the evils. The most important cause where both points are concerned is, purely and simply, economic and social inequality in the world: inequality that increases each day as a direct consequence of the EU’s policy towards, and oppression of, the world’s poorest countries. This is the root of the evil. Only in acknowledging this will the necessary legal policy acquire any meaning.
Guntars Krasts, (UEN). – (LV) If, seven years after the adoption of a programme for strengthening the European Union’s external borders in order to check uncontrolled immigration, the task still remains undone, it is clear that the European Union’s common immigration policy is still a matter for the future. The arguments that are used in defence of uncontrolled immigration do not withstand criticism. Immigrants do little to help stabilise adverse demographic trends in Europe, since the jobless rate amongst immigrants significantly exceeds average levels. The fact that unemployment indicators also maintain the same trend amongst immigrants from second-world countries demonstrates that the task of integrating immigrants does not form part of Member States’ immigration policies. In actual fact, the labour market is often closed to immigrants, and this leads the Member States to open up their social insurance systems. In turn, this is perceived as an invitation by immigrants in ‘donor’ countries.
I would like to say something about Europe’s common immigration policy. In the short term, together with significant improvement to the European Union’s external border controls it is necessary to come to an agreement on a comprehensive and structured immigration policy. This should be based on an assessment of the Member States’ employment markets and Member States’ potential to integrate immigrants. In the medium term, together with a significant improvement in the quality of the aid programmes designed for developing world countries, the Member States must be able to agree on an important revision to the European Union’s existing import and export policies, particularly in the sphere of agricultural products. Thank you.
Patrick Louis (IND/DEM). – (FR) Mr President, fellow Members, we have heard Mr Frattini complain about our not being able to protect Europe’s southern borders, rightly pointing out that an illegal immigrant who succeeds in getting into Spain or Italy can be in Lille or Hamburg within a day, and heard him propose, like Mr Sarkozy, that the right of veto be completely abolished. This is one more example of European integration being used as a solution to the problems it presents. Have not most of the parties represented in this House opened the floodgates to uncontrolled immigration by means of the Schengen agreements and the Treaty of Amsterdam, thereby depriving the Member States of their competence in this matter?
The Commission is now freezing the readmission agreements between Member States and interfering in family reunification policies and even wishes to bring in 25 million additional immigrants to curb the population decline. No, ladies and gentlemen, it is not possible to takes turns in power for 30 years and then, as soon as the elections come along, make out that one is not responsible for the current situation. Moreover, we are also supposed to go further in the headlong flight towards federalism. Frankly, if you want to destroy European civilisation, just continue as you are.
Jana Bobošíková (NI). – (CS) Today we are speaking about progress in the area of freedom, security and justice. Talk of progress is premature, however, when the Commission is unable or unwilling to honour its commitments for 2007 as regards the expansion of the Schengen area. I find it unacceptable that citizens of the ten new Member States will not be able to move freely across EU internal borders by the promised time, namely October of next year. It is inexplicable, in my view, that they will be subject to border police controls for a further two to three years. The Commission ought to behave not like a bunch of interlopers but like a body elected by this Parliament and extraordinarily well paid by the taxpayer. If it is incapable of getting the conditions in place for the Schengen area then it is incompetent. If it is simply hiding behind technical difficulties and wants to defer freedom of movement, then it is not to be trusted. Mr Barroso and his Commissioners are now hampering the free movement of people, which is one of the pillars of the EU. They should be aware of the extent to which they are risking the public’s trust in the Europe project in its current form.
Timothy Kirkhope (PPE-DE). – Mr President, here we are again. Mr Schulz was quite right. I dusted my 1999 speech down, Mr Schulz left the Chamber after his speech, various other things remain just the same as they were seven years ago. There is a lot of grey hair in this Chamber – not on me, of course.
It is true that we have the same issues and I myself believe in pragmatic inactivity as being something we should not always be concerned about. In this particular area, at a time of great terrorist threat – and there were terrorist threats in 1999 as well – there is a very uncertain message being sent out that the Presidency and the Commission and, regrettably, too many of those sitting in this House then and now seem to think that the most pressing need is to bring in the passerelle under Article 42.
I have always had reservations about imposing a single model of justice on countries where there are different legal systems evolving in different ways. In the case of the UK, our system of civil law is the greatest legacy of the great Angevin king Henry II, which developed with great success for over 800 years. Equally, we have not experienced the Napoleonic Code imposed throughout much of Europe 200 years ago. Even though we cannot apply that system, we have never wished to stop others doing so where it is appropriate.
Even on its own terms, the move to harmonisation is flawed. The ruling in the Cassis de Dijon case was one of the key moments in the development of the internal market, giving precedence to the principle of mutual recognition over blanket harmonisation.
The Council is due to present its mid-term review of The Hague Programme at the end of the year. As Piet Hein Donner, the midwife of the programme, has said, the first principle is the implementation of mutual recognition as the fundament for judicial cooperation. The programme is founded on the assumption of cooperation. Cooperation should determine the dynamics and development of European collaboration. I believe that is a practical and sensible approach, one which is showing signs of success and I urge the Presidency and the Commission to proceed on those lines.
Nicola Zingaretti (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, on such a sensitive subject, we really must avoid having a dialogue in which nobody listens. Instead, it is a good idea to begin to lay down some points of reference.
The first point of reference is the subject of immigration, which is a challenge for us all. We need only think about what happened this summer: once again, tens of thousands of people landed on Lampedusa and the Canaries, or it would be better to say that they arrived in Europe. Spain, Italy and sometimes Cyprus and Greece have often been merely gateways through which these people pour in, as they do not just stay by the gates.
As President Borrell Fontelles, Commissioner Frattini and now the President-in-Office of the Council have also pointed out, that is why it is not just a case of a humanitarian emergency or a one-off event; above all it is a structural problem, which is testing the whole European Union and its ability to implement a European immigration policy at last. Such a policy is needed not in order to do any particular Member State a favour, but because the Union as a whole is involved.
The second point of reference is that even those of us in positions of responsibility must not make the mistake of confusing immigration with terrorism, because that above all makes the people of Europe feel afraid and insecure. Instead, we should perhaps introduce a different paradigm: that of immigration and slavery, since many of these immigrants are beginning to be associated with that in certain Member States.
The third point of reference is more positive, however: we have to acknowledge that we are facing a new challenge for our civilisation to address. Such an awareness lies at the heart of the cultural and political leap that the Union has to make on immigration. It is not a marginal issue that only affects a few of us, but a new commitment that the Union needs to adopt as one of the new Millennium goals, and we have already clearly spelt out what that means.
Mr Frattini, Mr Rajamäki, we are aware that all of this will meet with considerable resistance from many governments, but if this Parliament has a role to play, then it is to exert pressure, to commit itself and to send out the message: ‘Let us do something about it.’ We need to tell the governments that are frightened that it is also a way to rebuild trust between the Union and its citizens, by showing that the Union exists and can make its presence felt.
Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, it is a red herring to say that we cannot get effective EU action on crime, terrorism and civil liberties without a new Constitution. Mr Schulz, your outrage was as entertaining as ever, but it is your Government and Mrs Klamt’s which is using that pretext from Berlin. We get endless speeches and conferences saying that terrorism, racism and immigration are top challenges – which they are; but the Commission still cannot tell us if states have implemented the five-year-old anti-terrorism law, and states are only just moving forward on a four-year-old proposal to tackle race hate crime. There is no common EU policy on migration.
We are told today by the Council that safeguarding human rights is a priority for EU governments. If that is so, how come foreign ministers were unable recently to make any formal response to President Bush’s admission of CIA secret prisons, just as they were unable to do anything about Guantánamo for four years? This system is dysfunctional and ineffective in fighting terrorism and upholding human rights. It is a betrayal of the 21st-century security needs of what will soon be half a billion people.
Sepp Kusstatscher, (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, immigration goes on whether we want it to or not; the only thing that matters is how we handle it. Europe needs immigrants, and the idea of Europe as a fortress with wealth within and poverty without is unsustainable.
This proposal may well be well-intentioned, but it is nevertheless not a good one; it is a party-political compromise lacking sufficient vision. The current practice of sending foreigners back from southern Europe and northern Africa is brutal, inhumane and ethically indefensible; we have forgotten how to act in accordance with the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Our approach to human rights is highly hypocritical, and we are disregarding the Geneva Convention on Refugees.
Pedro Guerreiro (GUE/NGL). – (PT) I should like to use this two-minute speech on the important issue of immigration, which in view of its multi-faceted nature would require a great deal longer, to call for the following:
- An end to repressive, securitarian policies that criminalise immigrants, who after all are just men and women looking for a job and a decent life;
- The closure of immigrant detention centres and an end to the inhuman policy of deportation;
- The fight against traffickers in human beings and their accomplices to be stepped up;
- The fight against xenophobia and racism, and against all policies and distorted views feeding these attitudes, to be stepped up;
- The regularisation of immigrant workers, ensuring their labour and social rights, a crucial prerequisite for putting an end to the appalling phenomenon of exploitation;
- An effective immigration policy that specifically includes family reunification;
- A policy that reverses the current trend towards concentrating wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the exploitation and poverty of millions and millions of human beings. I should also like to quote some statistics from the United Nations: The 691 richest people in the world have a net fortune equivalent to USD 2.2 billion, which is equal to the combined wealth of the 145 poorest countries. What is more, the 500 richest people have a combined income higher than that of the 416 million poorest. The 8 million richest people in the world have a net fortune equivalent to 80% of the GDP of all the countries in the world.
- In other words, what is needed is a policy that uses the human race’s ample resources, means and advances in science and technology to effectively resolve the problems facing the peoples of the world. This policy should be diametrically opposed to that of neoliberalism, militarism and failure to respect the sovereignty of peoples and countries.
Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (IND/DEM). – (PL) Mr President, in the context of the problems related to the immigration process raised in today’s question, attention has been drawn, amongst other issues, to the lack of mutual trust between Member States of the European Union. This mistrust and suspicion almost automatically affects relationships with third countries, such as the United States, which is de facto Europe’s natural ally in the war on terrorism. Such an attitude hampers the establishment of clear legal provisions in these areas. It effectively limits, or even prevents, useful cooperation.
It is hard to agree with the view expressed today by Commissioner Frattini, namely that the protection of fundamental rights and fighting terrorism ought to go hand in hand. I believe that for the benefit of most European citizens, serious thought should be given to redefining fundamental rights with a view to restricting them. This would allow us to counter terrorist actions swiftly and efficiently. Clearly, we must move in that direction in the interests of security.
IN THE CHAIR: EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT Vice-President
Jan Tadeusz Masiel (NI). – (PL) Mr President, last Sunday the small country of Switzerland voted in favour of a type of immigration policy that is best suited to the needs of the country in question and its citizens. As Commissioner Frattini stated, it could also be worth emulating the immigration policies adopted by Australia and United States. The European Union, however, has been following an over-ambitious immigration policy for years, to the detriment of the interests of its own citizens.
Our security, justice and immigration policies ought to strengthen development aid for Africa. It should put an end to the influx of Muslims and, if demographic factors or the situation on the labour market require it, welcome Christians from Eastern European countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Russia, who would not jeopardise the identity of our Christian civilisation.
Charlotte Cederschiöld (PPE-DE). – (SV) In the long run, we cannot cope without a common immigration policy and common strategies. The Member States are mainly responsible for integration. The exclusion that we have at present, along with benefits instead of work, must be brought to an end, and integration policy activated. Work must become the rule and benefits the exception. In Sweden, the new government is aiming to make the unemployed more attractive to employers. Integration policy must also be combined with measures to combat people-trafficking and with the development, in partnership, of agreements with third countries. I want to praise Mr Frattini for his endeavours in this area. We must also join together in defending the humane values on which the EU is based. An area of freedom, justice and security requires increased legal certainty and a strengthening of individual fundamental rights that the European Court of Justice can and must apply. Although we do not have these things in the third pillar, any more than we have data protection, we have seen measures introduced that interfere extensively in private life. How much longer does the Council believe we can go on without fundamental rights and a court at EU level competent to re-examine cases? The focus should now be on legal certainty and fundamental rights. In the long term, this should help us combat crime more effectively. Legal certainty and the fight against crime go hand in hand.
Louis Grech (PSE). – (MT) Some months ago, in this Parliament, Commissioner Frattini said that he cannot go ahead at the pace he would like to. We understand and we appreciate that there are bureaucratic problems, but these cannot continue being used as excuses and allow an alarming situation to change into an explosive and uncontrollable one. It is embarrassing that the Union is coming across as extremely passive when faced with a situation which is so sensitive, human and tragic for so many people and countries, including Member States. Malta, like Italy, Spain and other countries, is faced with a burden no country can shoulder on its own. This is a crisis which transcends frontiers, and therefore the solution must be European, Mediterranean and African, and, if necessary, must also involve the United Nations.
For a long time we have been hearing words like mobilisation, solidarity and financial help. Let us take, for example, the promise made to Malta that, during Summer, European patrols would commence in our waters. Summer has come and gone in the same way the immigrants have come, but the patrols were nowhere to be seen. So far the result has always been a piecemeal policy comprising unconnected measures, and the occasional announcement that we have found another half million Euro to donate. This is such a critical situation that it warrants the formulation of a European emergency plan, and in this context I believe that the European Parliament should have greater competence and a more pronounced role. There are many initiatives which can be adopted, one of which is the establishment of an observatory based in a Mediterranean country like Malta so that coordination work about illegal immigration in the region can take place.
The Council and the Commission have to send out a clear and concrete signal that they really consider this problem as a priority, and that they are ready to move and to act in order to implement a comprehensive policy which addresses not only the immediate needs of the Member States affected, but also those of the immigrants. Very often they are the victims of political repression, of organised crime or of economic poverty. This plan must involve the countries from which these immigrants depart, and must address the problems, especially economic problems of the immigrants’ countries of origin. The more serious the situation becomes, the greater the citizens’ loss of faith in European institutions.
Sophia in 't Veld (ALDE). – Mr President, we urgently need the bridging clause for more efficient and democratic decision-making. The EU must speak with one voice and not allow the United States to determine unilaterally the conditions of our joint counter-terrorism efforts. This applies, for example, to the negotiations on the post-2007 PNR agreement, but also to CIA activities. Last week the Member States issued a very feeble condemnation of secret CIA detention camps, but I would like to know whether the Europeans will continue to use the information obtained in these secret and illegal prisons.
On fundamental rights, which are conspicuously absent from this debate, in 2004 the Commission obtained the approval of the European Parliament on condition that the Commission become the champion of fundamental rights; but so far the Commission has been fairly timid. For example, you condemn homophobia with words, but will you also take action, Commissioner Frattini, for example on the basis of Article 7 against homophobic actions and statements by EU governments and ministers? Will you finally end the unacceptable discrimination against married gay couples? Commissioner and Council, will you be tough on terrorism, but also tough on intolerance in Europe?
Patrick Gaubert (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, more than 20 000 illegal immigrants have, at peril to their lives, run their boats onto the beaches of the Canary Islands, Lampedusa and Malta since the beginning of the year. We do not know how many others have actually drowned. As for what Mr Le Pen said a few moments ago about these men and women, it was pretty disgusting.
Our sole aim where these immigrants are concerned is to provide for the vital needs of their families. The men concerned, who are often responsible for families, are prepared to do anything to enable their children to eat, and nothing will stop them. Rather than stigmatise these people, we need to put an end to these human tragedies. Let us, then, turn our words into actions and put a genuine immigration policy in place quickly.
During the visits made by colleagues and myself to the detention centres on Europe’s southern borders, we sounded a warning note. This summer, a delegation from the Frontex agency was sent out to patrol the Spanish and African coastlines. That was a positive first step. Unfortunately, there is still a glaring lack of resources.
Here are a few examples of what might be done, referred to in my group’s resolution. Firstly, increase security at our external borders. Let us remember that, in our Schengen area, it is crucial to share responsibilities and the financial burden. Let us therefore consider creating effective joint patrols for the maritime borders, a European border police force or a network of immigration liaison officers.
Secondly, let there be a more effective crackdown on traffickers in human beings and on undeclared work in all the Member States.
Thirdly, there should be real partnerships and readmission agreements with countries of origin. To start with, we want the European return directive to be adopted as soon as possible.
With regard to co-development, let us put more effective monitoring systems in place. Co-development money must reach the people directly, without being misappropriated. Development aid must be provided only in proportion to the efforts made by countries of origin to prevent their populations from emigrating illegally. Finally, have those Member States that have regularised the status of huge numbers of their illegal immigrants in recent years got on top of illegal immigration in their countries? The answer is, unfortunately, no. Mass regularisation is not, as some people think, the right solution.
To conclude, I would quite candidly ask you how long it is going to take and how many meetings are going to be necessary before the 25 …
(The President cut off the speaker)
Stavros Lambrinidis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, Commissioner, we had no need for a secret services committee in the United States to tell us that the War in Iraq would increase rather than reduce the risk of terrorism in Europe and the rest of the world. Nor should anyone declare in the future that they are surprised if it emerges that secret prisons, flexible interpretations of the Geneva Convention, the tapping of thousands of telephones, distrust of every European traveller and the approach to the millions of immigrants living among us with repression rather than integration measures are not only giving terrorists recruiting arguments, but are also, primarily, measures that undermine the sense of security and democracy at the very heart of Europe.
The European Parliament is neither naïve nor romantic on questions of anti-terrorism. It has repeatedly demanded harsh measures to combat all these murderers. However, at the same time, it insists on the application of European law and on the protection of fundamental rights. However, Parliament's balanced and strong stand does not appear to bother certain ministers in the ΕU. Last week in Tampere, certain ministers of justice insisted on keeping Parliament in the role of ventriloquist's dummy on these issues. Unfortunately, they included the Greek Minister of Justice, who should be more careful following yesterday's disclosure that the Greek Government had secretly agreed with the USA in 2004 to facilitate the transmission of thousands of data items – not on Greek but on European citizens – during and after the Olympic Games in Athens.
In our countries, no one understands the national parliaments not having a decisive say and control in policing and justice matters. In Europe, however, it would appear that some people wish to draw a line and say that democracy does not count here.
Lapo Pistelli (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a minute is a very short time, so I shall confine myself to making a single point.
We are dealing with policies in which it seems clear what Europe can and should do: it needs to develop a common asylum system, common rules on legal immigration, and common management of our external borders.
It is clear that national efforts are no longer enough, because they simply do not work. It is clear that public opinion would support this alternative idea of effective European sovereignty, although I admit that there have been too many speeches by Italian or Mediterranean Members this morning, as if immigration were purely our problem, that is, one affecting just the Mediterranean countries.
What is not clear, however, is the title of the press release issued at the end of the Tampere Summit: ‘Ministers call for greater solidarity and cooperation.’ I am sorry, Mr Rajamäki, but from whom else can they demand that but themselves? As we do not yet have a European Constitution – I wish we did – does anyone in the Council have a different idea other than quickly implementing the bridging clause? Besides, who benefits from this institutional standstill? Today, at least, I think a large majority in Parliament has made its opinion quite clear on that point.
Jas Gawronski (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there are many new threats to our security and freedom, and uncontrolled immigration is certainly one of them.
The greatest and most recent threat, however, comes from terrorism, as Mr Frattini pointed out earlier. As the coordinator for my group in the temporary committee on the CIA, I have addressed the problem with my colleagues and we have all looked for solutions together. I personally have come to the conclusion that we can do very little – and, unfortunately, we have done very little – to discover anything new about the situation, about its causes and about who is to blame. We now need to concentrate on the future and on ways and means to prevent the recurrence of situations of illegality that further endanger our freedom and security.
What can we do? One idea can be found in the question to the Council that led to this morning’s debate, where it mentions initiatives to remedy the lack of trust between Member States. That is an important, indeed crucial point. To combat terrorism within the Union we need to exchange more information, including with our main allies and in particular the United States, with which we have recently had some difficulties. We must exchange information on an equal footing and on the basis of mutual trust.
Greater control is also needed over the activities of one country’s secret services when they are operating on another’s territory. Secret services have to remain secret in order to operate effectively, but only within certain limits. Our committee on the CIA has no powers of investigation and so we have to insist that the national parliaments, which in many countries have the appropriate powers, investigate any infringements of human rights and any threats to our security and freedom.
It will then be our job to coordinate the research in order to achieve compatible solutions at a European level.
Hannes Swoboda (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, even if some people choose to ignore the fact, Europe is a continent that attracts immigrants. Many people in this continent of ours could accept that and live with it if they felt that this immigration was to some extent under control and kept within reasonable bounds. What they cannot accept – and this is of course exploited by the extreme Right in particular – is the feeling that they are facing some sort of onslaught that they are powerless to control.
It is, then, absolutely right that the Council and Commissioner Frattini in particular should openly call for action to be taken to give the public the sense that there is such a thing as a single European migration policy with certain cornerstones that ensure that everything is kept under control. Solidarity within Europe is, of course, a part of this. It may be that certain countries – Germany and Austria, for example – are somewhat bitter about the times when they were on the receiving end of a great deal of migration, particularly from South-Eastern Europe, but of little solidarity, but that is no reason to deny that solidarity to others now. Far from it; where this is concerned, we have to make common cause.
Immigration policy, though, must go hand in hand with a policy for integration. I am very glad that Commissioner Frattini addressed the subject of unauthorised workers, for it is sometimes the case that those elements in politics that get terribly worked up about immigration tolerate, at the same time, the presence in Europe of vast masses of illegal workers, constituting a sort of illicit reserve of labour and also bringing downward pressure to bear on wages. That is not on! It is quite right to demand that the individual governments take firm action to deal with this.
Gérard Deprez (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, fellow Members, I was in Spain at the end of August, and I have to say that I was deeply shocked by the terrible pictures I saw of these poor wretches landing on the coasts of the Canary Islands.
I must also say, however, that I was ashamed, not at what the Spaniards were doing – they were doing their best – but at the lack of solidarity on the part of the European countries that had promised to help Spain but did not do so. I was also ashamed – and, Commissioner, I hope that you looked at the Spanish press – at the limited resources available to Frontex. It was a case of too little, too late.
Mr Rajamäki, it is usual in European circles to use flowery language to say that we are together constructing a common area of freedom within common borders. Remind your colleagues, however, that a common border has to be managed and protected jointly. It is scandalous that a number of Member States haggle over their solidarity and shameful that one Member State should have to beg for help from the others in order to perform a task that is in everyone’s interests.
Agustín Díaz de Mera García Consuegra (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, the Spanish Government's mistaken policy is flooding the Union with people without documents. Spain is now a country of destination and a country of transit. There must be no more mass regularisations. We must be able to say how many people, and who, can live in dignity amongst us. What can we do? There are national solutions and there are Community solutions.
At Community level, we must move towards the objective of a common immigration policy. To this end, it is crucial to take advantage of the opportunities provided for in the EC Treaty and, specifically, in paragraph 2 of Article 67, and apply the codecision procedure to illegal immigration.
We shall have to implement policies such as the following: greater cooperation amongst the Member States, equal rights and obligations for all immigrants, partnership and cooperation agreements with conditions, bilateral agreements between the Union and countries of origin, including obligatory repatriation clauses.
No, I repeat, no, to national mass regularisation processes, yes to constant improvements in resources and strengthening of the capacities of FRONTEX, to the coordination of controls at maritime borders, to the creation of joint border control patrols and teams, to protecting the Union's external borders and to external European Union action. Solana and Ferrero to Africa and the Mediterranean!
All of this must be accompanied by the humanitarian treatment that illegal immigration demands and that we support unreservedly. Assistance, humanitarian care and return. Nobody should remain in European territory outside of the law.
I would like to make one protest in order not to break with my tradition. This is a good debate, but it is a totum revolutum that takes us nowhere. Hence my protest. We are talking here about immigration, about terrorism, about passerelle clauses and about organised crime. We must learn a lesson from this and hold debates on single subjects.
President. Thank you, your comments are noted. It is, however, a debate on the progress made in the area of freedom, security and justice. It is an annual debate, so naturally it has to be rather wide-ranging.
Marie-Line Reynaud (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Parliament has to give its opinion by the end of the year on the framework programme known as solidarity and management of migration flows. I should have liked to have seen more resources given to this major instrument, but we are suffering the constraints of a draconian Financial Perspective. I hope, in any case, that the Commission will not accept any watering down of its latest proposal.
Our objective must be to guarantee that the distribution between the four funds – those in relation to refugees, external borders, integration and return – reflects a balanced, rather than essentially repressive, approach to the issue of immigration. That is why we must defend the integration fund as, if the Council states that integration can be financed from the European Social Fund (ESF), the integration fund will be the only real instrument financing measures intended for new arrivals.
If, finally, we have a duty of solidarity towards Member States that are particularly vulnerable in this respect, let us remember that what we are concerned with here are structural funds which, as such, are not intended to be used as emergency funds, all the more since the distribution keys in each fund allow a variety of situations to be taken into account.
Ignasi Guardans Cambó (ALDE). – (ES) Mr President, the European Union’s credibility in the eyes of millions of citizens is at stake. If the European Union cannot protect its own borders in a joint fashion, then what is the Union for? Europe has a shared external border, and it is everybody’s responsibility.
African immigrants do not enter via the North Pole, Minister, nor via the shores of the Baltic, but they are entering Europe, and Europe belongs to all of us. Everybody has their own particular geography, though, and they have been given it by God, as some people might say.
It is not charity that certain Member States are asking for but, rather, consistency with the European project that we all talk about so much and which is so easy to preach when we are talking about the single market in financial services or the common market in goods. When it comes to borders, however, it appears that each Member State has their own, and they do not feel the need to share responsibility for other borders. We are not talking about charity, but about coherence, about responsibility for the European project. The European Union’s credibility is at stake.
Barbara Kudrycka (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Mr Rajamäki stated that a revised timetable for the accession of the new Member States to the SIS II system will be made known by the end of the year. It follows that a revised timetable for the elimination of internal borders will also be set. It is not known when this will come about, but the postponement is not due to delays on the part of the new Member States. Poland will be ready to start implementing the SIS II system by March 2007. The same is true of the other new Member States.
Commissioner, Mr Rajamäki, how does this situation impact on the Commission’s credibility with regard to granting citizens such a fundamental right as full freedom of movement across the territory of the European Union? The Commission is forever ramming slogans about a Europe of the citizens and a Europe of results down people’s throats. How dare it, therefore, for allegedly technical reasons, hold up the process of the full enlargement of the Schengen area, and postpone it until after next year, as had been agreed at the European Council? Perhaps experts from the new Member States should be asked to ensure that the central unit is completed on time? The best IT staff and programmers must be recruited to ensure that this is done. If it is not, the Commission and you personally, Commissioner, will be called to account for such lack of professionalism. I am not referring to the financial, technical, political and social consequences of this decision. The European Parliament is monitoring the Commission’s progress in this area, together with any costs arising from the delay, and it will continue to do so. I therefore urge all concerned to consider the costs and benefits involved before taking the final decision on this matter.
I congratulate the Council on reaching a compromise on the SIS II legislative package. Nonetheless, we still need the Council to demonstrate strong leadership and reveal the so-called technical problems for what they really are, namely a smokescreen for the lack of political will on the part of certain Member States. After all, it is the SIS II system which creates certain technical opportunities and is thus one of the conditions ensuring that the common immigration policy becomes a shared responsibility for all Member States, not just for those most affected by illegal immigration and terrorism. If this does not happen, we shall never be able to deal effectively with terrorism and the influx of emigrants.
Wolfgang Kreissl-Dörfler (PSE). – (DE) Mr President, migration into Europe, whether by legal or illegal means, is a Community task par excellence. In an age of open borders, problems with immigration can no longer be dealt with by nation-states acting on their own; there is a shared responsibility that no Member State – not even Germany – can wriggle out of. Looking forward to the German Council Presidency, one thing is clear, namely that we cannot act as if legal and illegal immigration were absolutely unconnected, for the opposite is the case; each is conditional upon the other. The fact is that migration is a complex phenomenon and is as old as the human race itself; deportations and border guards will be ineffective in dealing with it.
That is why the Council of the European Union must at length face up to this problem, not only in Europe’s interests, but also and above all in the interests of the desperate people who go in search of what they are told will be a better future only, alas, often to lose their lives in the attempt. The utterances that Mr Beckstein of the Bavarian CSU came out with in Tampere are shameful to say the least, and reveal once more what this man and substantial elements in his party actually believe.
Marco Cappato (ALDE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, very little progress has yet been made in the area of security and freedom, and certainly not enough for such a crucial issue.
For years, the Council has decided to base its actions in the area of freedom on mutual recognition, as if the courts, police and secret services in the individual countries of Europe could necessarily cooperate on the basis of mutual recognition. Events have shown that this principle alone is not enough: we also need the courage to harmonise certain policies and thus turn them into European policies, particularly on matters of freedom.
We remain firm on some points: the antidiscrimination directive, the racism observatory, the framework decision on procedural rights, and safeguards of privacy in the transfer of air passenger data.
It is on the subject of freedom that we lack common safeguards at a European level; in this area, cooperation among the Member States is not enough.
Hubert Pirker (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, the problem of how to contend against illegal immigration is the greatest challenge of modern time, although I have to make it clear that 99% of immigrants are not refugees, but rather economic migrants, and it is ultimately for the European Union and every one of its Member States to decide which migrants, and how many of them, are to be accepted; this is a quite separate matter from asylum, the necessary solutions to which are possible only on a Community basis.
I am glad to see that, after many debates, the way is being paved for real action on this front, and Commissioner Frattini deserves praise for Frontex and other measures, but what we should be doing is investing more in prevention. The first steps are indeed being taken to this end, but I suggest that we should give thought to stepping up development aid, to targeting and monitoring it, to the possibility of information campaigns in the mass media, which should be a collaborative effort with the countries of origin, in which people would be informed about the risks and consequences involved in illegal immigration by being shown how things really are for stranded ‘boat people’ and for those who migrate illegally in search of work, and they would also have to be told about the possibility of migrating legally. That really would help to alleviate a lot of need and misery.
Thirdly, we must do more to address the problem of people working illegally within the European Union and take firm action. I expect the Council to ensure that there will be no more mass legalisations, which do more than anything else to draw more migrants to the EU.
Finally, I would like once more to appeal to the Member States to abandon for good their national animosities where asylum, migration for work purposes and internal security are concerned, or at any rate to curb them and move towards Community-based solutions, for what new challenges demand is new European responses.
Inger Segelström (PSE). – (SV) EU citizens attach high priority to the debate we are now having. As quite a few speakers have said in this House, we should have solved these acute problems a long time ago. That applies to the migratory flows to the Canary Islands and Malta, information updates for everyone waiting for permission to stay in the EU and better support for those fighting to be accepted as new EU citizens. We should have made more progress in influencing attitudes in our societies and combating segregation in working life, housing and education.
In Sweden, we had elections two weeks ago, in which a xenophobic party won seats on councils in every third local authority. I am perturbed by their message that too many immigrants have been allowed in. They talk about that, but not about the responsibility we all share and the solidarity we all need to show. The EU’s population is ageing quickly, and there will need to be more of us. We must have a successful debate on this. We in Parliament must obtain increased powers, greater responsibility and access to more rapid decision-making. It is only by means of a common EU policy in this area that we can achieve results for EU citizens.
Stefano Zappalà (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, yet again this summer we have witnessed landings and shipwrecks every day that have led to hundreds of deaths in European waters.
The steady flow of boats trying to reach the Union’s shores shows no signs of abating; indeed, it is increasing. The situation has now clearly developed into a real emergency, which has to be addressed seriously. Even today, three or four Member States find that they have to deal with these landings by themselves. Something that we have heard and said all too often in this Chamber is that Malta, Italy and Spain are making an effort for the sake of the whole Union but are left to suffer alone.
The European Union as a whole, with its 25 – soon to be 27 – countries, must once and for all tackle this extremely serious situation jointly. National self-interest has to be abandoned. It is time to start regarding the immigration emergency as a problem affecting all 25 Member States and not just those whose geographical position means that they have to recover bodies from the sea every day.
Through the good offices of Mr Frattini, who thoroughly deserves our plaudits – and not just because he is a friend – the Commission is preparing specific action plans and is trying to implement existing programmes. It is the Council, however, that has to decide to address a situation that has been a human tragedy for some time. Instead, Minister, the Council is still taking Europe for a ride. The Council needs to take responsibility for sending out a strong, effective signal to make this a Community issue.
To that end, Minister, I shall use this opportunity to ask yet again that an extraordinary Internal Affairs Council be called, to be held on the island of Malta, which is one of the countries worst affected and facing the greatest difficulties because of its size. I also call yet again for a debate on the Dublin II agreement.
No more idle talk, Minister! Through the Council, the European Union needs to prove that it really exists!
Genowefa Grabowska (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, Lampedusa is not just an Italian problem. Immigration is not currently as great a problem in my country, Poland, as it is in Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece or Cyprus, but any of us could be hit by a wave of illegal immigration. Immigration is therefore not a local or regional issue. It affects the whole of Europe and needs to be dealt with at that level. If the Union is to develop an effective, common immigration policy, this policy must be based on decisions taken by a majority vote. It is time to do away with unanimity at the Council and to make immigration a first pillar policy.
I shall now move on to the matter of Frontex. Frontex is located in my country, in Warsaw. Poland has the longest external border in the European Union and yet, ironically enough, its citizens cannot move freely across the territory of the whole Union at the moment, because SIS II is not ready. I wonder, Commissioner, whether by the time we come to celebrate the Union’s 50th anniversary in March 2007, you will be in a position to say when the citizens of the new Member States will be able to enjoy free movement across the whole of the territory of the Union?
Panayiotis Demetriou (PPE-DE). – Mr President, allow me emphasise the issue of police and judicial cooperation and to say that widening and deepening such cooperation between the Member States of the European Union is really crucial. We cannot talk about effectively combating crime and terrorism on a pan-European scale with the current cooperation levels and mechanisms in the police and judicial sector. It is about time that we proved that our declarations and assurances for enhancing and developing the cooperation are not meaningless.
That is the major challenge facing the European Council, which will be meeting soon with the aim of reviewing the programme. If the European Council has the will to remedy the decision-making incompetence of the Europe, in this respect there is only one decision to take: to shift these subjects from the third pillar to the first pillar. It has the legal power to do that, under Article 42 of the European Treaty and the passerelle. Let that be used at last.
Last week the Finnish Presidency admitted, inter alia, that practical experience has shown that problems with current decision-making at EU level are leading to a decreasing number of police cooperation initiatives. That was indeed a nice honest admission. However, the steady degrading of police cooperation is due to the lack of European framework decisions which would develop and establish such cooperation.
Those shortcomings have to be remedied. The low credibility of the European Union as far as the security of the citizens is concerned reduces its prestige. We have been waiting a long time for approval of the framework decision for minimum procedural rights in criminal cases and for revision of the European arrest warrant. What has caused the delay? Why is the Council inactive and incapable of taking decisions? We have to leave rhetoric behind and finally embark on action.
Edith Mastenbroek (PSE). – (NL) Mr President, Europe is a bicycle. Needless to say, this quote leaves itself wide open to all kinds of feeble comparisons, because with the Schengen information system, an instrument that helps us, among other things, to track illegal immigrants, we are engaged in some kind of political Tour de France, which involves all of us racing like mad in the same direction. Meanwhile, there are other challenges, such as preventing immigration, and the solitary figure of Commissioner Frattini is attempting to make headway using a tricycle. The green card is a fine idea but, unfortunately, pie in the sky as things stand. Perhaps Commissioner Frattini will tell us whether the Council is prepared to give these issues a ‘mountain bike treatment’.
Something else that is left hanging in the air is the presidency’s remark that majority decision-making works. It does, but I am all the more surprised, then, that the Council should want to restrict Parliament’s codecision rights where biometrics is concerned. Are we not cycling around the Schengen information system fast enough? Will Commissioner Frattini give us his opinion on whether we are or not? I look forward to his doing so.
Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). – (MT) Recently, there have been conflicting reports about what sort of cooperation we have with Libya regarding illegal immigration. Initially, Commissioner, you said that Libya was interested in participating in the Mediterranean patrols; we then heard Libya deny this. Later, the Corriere della Sera announced that Italy and Libya had agreed to undertake joint patrols. Subsequently this news item was denied as well. Afterwards, Commissioner, you said that the European Union was ready to help and give financial assistance to Libya to encourage it to cooperate. Can the Commisioner and the Council clarify at what stage contacts with Libya are, and what the present situation is like? What is certain is that in the struggle against illegal immigration, cooperation with Libya is necessary, in the same way that it is important that we help Libya protect its borders in the south of the country. After all, we cannot expect Libya to help us protect Mediterranean borders if we ourselves do not help Libya protect its own desert frontiers.
Javier Moreno Sánchez (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, the need for a great pact amongst Europeans on immigration is clear. This pact amongst Europeans requires a pact amongst Spaniards. The government has proposed one repeatedly and the People’s Party has spurned it, preferring to go late to Brussels to propose measures that are already being implemented in our country with the support of the European Union.
Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me briefly to sum up the three main points of the Spanish Government’s immigration policy.
Firstly, effective management and regulation of legal immigration linked to the reality of the labour market. Ladies and gentlemen, the ‘draw effect’ is caused by the submerged economy; we want workers with rights and obligations, not slaves. Extraordinary regularisation has been a necessary one-off measure for dealing with the dreadful migratory situation that we inherited from the Aznar government.
Secondly, the full social integration of legal immigrants into Spanish society.
Finally, resolve in the fight against illegal immigration: all immigrants entering Spain illegally are treated properly, but they must return to their countries. In Spain this year, 54 000 illegal immigrants have been repatriated.
(The President cut off the speaker)
Jacek Protasiewicz (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, Mr Rajamäki, ever since the Tampere Summit in 1999, it has been clear that the Union needs a common approach to the problem of migration, and to economic migration in particular. As a result of the increasing flood of immigrants and the alarming pictures from the Canary Islands, we have now become more aware than ever of the need for a common European migration policy to deal effectively with this problem.
Immigration should not be perceived simply as a threat, however. Europe is clearly experiencing a demographic crisis. Well-managed migration could be the answer to the negative consequences of an ageing population. I would remind the House that, in view of the current rate of migration, it is anticipated that there will be about 20 million fewer people employed in the Union in the period 2010-2030. The leading regions of the world have long been competing with each other to attract suitably qualified immigrants, and the Union must not remain on the sidelines.
The lack of a common migration policy actually increases the likelihood of immigrants circumventing national regulations. We have seen how individual countries have responded to such practices by undertake mass measures to legalise the status of illegal immigrants, as the Socialist government recently decided to do in Spain. Moves of this kind are not the solution to the problem. In fact, they aggravate it because they act as an incentive for middlemen involved in smuggling more groups of immigrants into Europe.
I venture to take this opportunity to disagree with the opinion expressed by Mr Rajamäki at the start of this debate concerning the positive impact of development policy on reducing the influx of immigrants, notably those from Africa. I do not believe it is useful to think along those lines, Mr Rajamäki. I accept the need to strengthen development policy, but am inclined to support Commissioner Frattini’s approach, namely to deal firmly with illegal immigrants and give priority to common management of economic migration. I would also like to call for the work on the draft directive on admission to be speeded up, along with the work on the directive regulating procedures for returning immigrants to their countries of origin.
Lilli Gruber (PSE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, opening legal entry channels that take account of the market requirements in the individual Member States is, together with clamping down on illegal work, one of the priorities for dealing pragmatically with the complex problem of immigration. This needs to be done through a common European action plan, a joint commitment and a collective effort.
For that not to be just empty rhetoric, however, we have to give up the hypocrisy of grandiose, theoretical statements of principle at Council meetings and stop using the immigration issue for domestic political ends, a practice that is utterly unacceptable and irresponsible. From this perspective, implementing the passerelle clause at last is absolutely crucial. That is the only way in which we will be able to act effectively in an area where we have been remiss for too long.
I agree with whoever said ‘we have to pedal’, but I would add ‘otherwise we fall off’. In this case, however, we will all fall together, in unison. If we have not yet realised it, we are all on the same bicycle.
Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, we have all realised that there is now an urgent need for us to take a common approach towards terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. As far as immigration is concerned, it is necessary to coordinate the structures involved in managing migration flows and simplify decision-making procedures using the qualified majority. Particular emphasis must also be placed on the need to respect solidarity and the fair distribution of burdens between the Member States, including those not under pressure from immigration.
We also need to highlight the need for cooperation between all of us on the effective control of external borders. Particular emphasis needs to be placed on better management of sea borders in Europe by creating a Mediterranean coastguard in order to prevent human tragedies and control immigration flows.
Finally, it needs to be understood that the mass unilateral legalisation of illegal immigrants not only is no solution, but also creates greater immigration pressures and unforeseen developments. Unilateral deeds in a community of open internal borders – in which interdependence and interactions are unavoidable – are a matter which deserves our serious attention.
These are just some measures that we need to decide on jointly and not just decide on, but also apply with religious devotion.
Adeline Hazan (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, I believe that we are now at a key moment when it comes to the future of European immigration policy, a moment of truth in which every man and woman needs clearly to perceive what is at stake.
What, precisely, is Europe’s response to these challenges? At present, it is –it has to be said – a mixture of compassion and repression that offers no real solution to the recognised need for protection. Let us be aware in this House of the dangers of disposable immigration in which the migrant is seen only in a utilitarian perspective. Hypocrisy has prevailed since the first Tampere European Council, which was ultimately supposed to make it possible for asylum and immigration policies to be communitised.
We are now seeing our responsibilities assumed instead by our southern Mediterranean neighbours, who have a lot of difficulty in taking on this very heavy burden. How, then, is it possible to believe that we shall be able to stem these migratory flows at a time when, in addition, the future arrival of refugees from climate change is already being foreseen?
We need finally to leave behind short-term politics and to support policies that require action to be taken.
(The President cut off the speaker)
Christine De Veyrac (PPE-DE). – (FR) Mr President, we see more and more every day how a common European immigration policy has become essential. For those who were in any doubt about the matter, certain European countries’ mass regularisation of foreigners without papers has demonstrably led to huge numbers of new illegal migrants arriving on our continent. This situation has repercussions for all the countries of the European Union since, as everyone knows, a migrant whose papers have been put in order may move freely within a large part of the EU’s territory.
The example of Spain has shown that, in the area without borders in which we live, a government can no longer decide alone, and without consulting its partners, to regularise the status of all illegal immigrants on its territory. A common and agreed policy has become essential, as foreseen moreover by the draft European Constitution, which put most of these matters on a basis whereby they could be decided on by qualified majority voting.
I note that, despite the Commission’s efforts, a number of Member States seem to be taking a backward step by now rejecting what they had accepted yesterday. That is deplorable. The continued requirement of unanimity in this area is a factor leading to paralysis and ineffectiveness. At the European Union’s informal summit on 20 October 2006, strong practical measures must be decided on with a view to putting a stop to illegal immigration. The summit must not be content with fine statements of good intentions, as summits too often are.
Put a stop to illegal immigration by all means, but the root cause of the problem has to be tackled. The problem must be examined in consultation with the African countries within the framework of a genuine co-development strategy and by means of a proper sharing of competences between countries of immigration and countries of emigration. Above all, however, the European Union must extend its development aid policy and monitor it more successfully and must know where the funds are going and how they are used.
Finally, I am not forgetting the very short term and the immediate problems and, like Mr Deprez, I deplore the behaviour of those Member States that have talked non-stop about mutual aid and solidarity but without ever having translated their words into deeds. Faced with the influx of illegal immigrants in the Canary Islands, it is our duty to come to the aid of Spain and the task of the Member States to take action and show solidarity.
Kinga Gál (PPE-DE). – (HU) Mr President, it is fundamentally important that the basic principles and values on which the European Union is based are applied, in all circumstances, as part of the Member States' and Community policies too. If our aspirations towards this are fulfilled, it will bring us closer to safeguarding the Union's democratic legitimacy and retaining our credibility.
This also means that the protection and promotion of fundamental rights must receive appropriate institutional support. This is why I feel it is important that no Member State should prevent the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights from being set up to operate in a genuinely accountable, independent, as well as effective manner.
No Member State can be allowed to disregard Europe's fundamental values and principles. But this is especially true for new Member States or for states now joining the Union, where the rule of law is, in many cases, only put to the test after they become members.
This is why open or covert official support by the government and politicians for intolerance and extremism cannot be allowed in Slovakia, neither can we tolerate its direct result: turning a blind eye to the acts of violence committed against minorities and the Hungarian population. This cannot be regarded as a domestic matter. It has a direct impact on freedom, security and justice within the EU, which makes it a European matter.
Similarly, we have seen a lack of principle, obscenities and lies being openly and cynically upheld, contravening Europe's fundamental principles and any responsibility and accountability to citizens, being presented, without any hint of an apology, as an act of courage and heroism. I am referring, of course, to the events surrounding the Hungarian prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány. This also undermines the foundations of the rule of law and credibility. This is why it jeopardises everything we build together in the area of freedom, security and justice.
The way in which the Council and Commission handles the expansion of the Schengen area has jeopardised the credibility of Community institutions and the confidence of the new Member States' citizens in the Union, especially when it has been recently announced that the area's enlargement would be postponed until the second half of 2008. We simply do not understand this, and it is unacceptable to new members that they cannot join …
(The President cut off the speaker)
David Casa (PPE-DE). – (MT) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to comment on a problem that all of Europe is facing, particularly the Mediterrranean countries. Everyone has had his or her say; everybody has said that a solution should be found. Ladies and gentlemen, the solution is right here in front of us: we should introduce a mechanism that ensures that responsibilities are shared by everybody. Empty words are useless; it is useless to say that in this Union we should all be helping each other, but then do next to nothing when it comes to the crunch. It is useless to utter beautiful-sounding words like ‘solidarity’, but then continue to fail to act. Let us not allow this Union, which was created precisely to enable everybody to enjoy equal rights, to be reduced to a Europe of documents, a Europe of resolutions, a Europe of promises or a Europe of dreams. I know efforts are being made, but they are not enough. This is the moment of truth, this is the moment to practise what we preach and state what we really believe in. I am convinced that, with some good will on all sides, a compromise will be found which will lead to a lasting solution to this problem, that is, the sorely-needed common European policy.
Robert Atkins (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I am sorry to raise this yet again, but it appears that no one in Parliament’s Presidency is listening. We were told to arrive here for votes at noon. That has now been postponed to 12.05 and again to 12.10. I know that you are very efficient at getting business through this House, but I urge you please to inform the Conference of Presidents of the continuing dissatisfaction of colleagues in this House about the times of votes being changed arbitrarily, at considerable inconvenience to the way this House’s business is conducted.
President. We have had a very comprehensive, whole-morning debate on a single subject. There have been 63 speakers. I do not want to be discourteous either to the Council or the Commission, but the Minister spoke for 23 minutes and 49 seconds, and the Commissioner spoke for 21 minutes and 19 seconds. I am obliged to give both of them the floor now. I hope they will be brief in their remarks.
Kari Rajamäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, I wish to thank Parliament for an excellent debate. I regret, however, that there has been insufficient time. Unfortunately, I cannot take, say, two minutes to give a five-minute speech, although that would certainly be possible in the Finnish Parliament.
The Presidency is aware of the nature of the draft Framework Decision on the protection of personal data under the third pillar – I am now referring to Mrs Roure’s proposal – and of its importance for the citizens of Europe, and of the fact that the European Parliament has engaged with the proposals on the Framework Decision VIS and SIS II information systems. In this connection and on behalf of the Presidency, I would like to thank the European Parliament for the work it has done, and to say that we are doing all we can in order to reach an agreement on the draft Framework Decision by the end of our presidential term. Where possible, we will take the European Parliament’s opinion and views into consideration in future work within the context of the acts of the Treaty, so that we can use an acceptable legislative instrument to guarantee high levels of protection of personal data by establishing common rules for data protection under the third pillar.
The issues of immigration and migration call for more focused discussion, and I hope that we will have the opportunity to return to them once again. The situation in the Mediterranean was an issue I raised immediately at the first meeting of the Council of Ministers for Home Affairs. It has been on the agenda and has been discussed at every such meeting, and will be again.
It is essential that we should be able to have a greater influence on social and economic development and on general conditions in third countries from which migrants come. In general, we Ministers of the Interior prefer to deal with the purely human and negative impact; in other words, we put the plaster on the wound. As a result, it is very important to have better coordination of the EU’s external relations and internal affairs in cooperation with third countries and the Commission. This is also something that has been continually underlined in the work of the Council of Ministers.
It is also important that we give support to countries which bear a heavy burden when it comes to illegal immigration. The initiative regarding extended solidarity proposed at Tampere is an important one. It may help us to make progress, and not just by doling out money. As a counterweight to this burden, we need significant financial investment. In addition, we need guarantees of a procedure that will ensure that the Member States adhere to the jointly agreed rules and take responsibility for illegal immigrants and asylum seekers entering their territory – in other words, that they register them and give them a residence permit, or make arrangements for their repatriation. It will be very important to establish information systems for this, and to develop existing systems too.
Together with the Commission, the Council supports the available forms of assistance needed in coastal surveillance in the Mediterranean and other areas of cooperation, but I wish to point out that in the European Union, responsibility for operations such as these lies with the Member States, which must have adequate competence, planning skills and management abilities for a continuing operation, as well as for joint operations. The countries on Schengen’s external borders are also responsible for preventing illegal immigration into the Schengen area. We want to support that, as well as the work of the new European Agency for the Management of Operational Co-operation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex).
It is vitally important that, when we emphasise the importance of ensuring protection and implementing the Geneva Convention, we make a distinction between illegal and legal immigration. In this respect, it is very important that a proactive European immigration policy is developed and its quantitative and qualitative management established, while at the same time we bear in mind the question of stability in our job markets. A proactive European immigration policy is not, however, the same thing as illegal immigration under the control of organised crime. As Commissioner Frattini said, we must also take a serious view of the fact that the illegal job market and the grey economy are responsible for human and economic chaos. The various Member States of the European Union should now be able to discuss this fact frankly and openly. For this to happen, the authorities must be better able to recognise the phenomenon of the smuggling and trafficking of human beings and to step up their efforts to protect the victims of human trafficking. The most disgusting form of organised crime, human trafficking, is a European phenomenon, although we hardly talk about it. Finland wants to revitalise this debate both at home and in the European Union.
It is very important to monitor the way in which the enlarged European Union responds to the demands of our citizens and what they find acceptable, on the one hand, and the demands of internal security, on the other. In this connection, I consider it very important to improve the decision-making process. It is totally unacceptable that we should take more than a year to think about who to choose as Director of Europol. It is also unacceptable that, at the same time as we demand controls at external borders and a border strategy, we should be dwelling on the matter of which city the Border Security Agency should be located in. We must be able to implement a decision-making system that aims at better and more credible security.
Regarding the mountain bike that was called for in earlier speeches, I would like to say that Finland, like Germany and the other presidencies, as well as Commissioner Franco Frattini, would like to put this mountain bike into a higher gear, and that we aim to use it for the benefit of common security and a safer Europe.
President. Thank you, Minister. I believe it was US President Jackson who said ‘I like the noise of democracy’. That is what you are hearing.
Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I realise that, in the very few minutes available, it is going to be extremely difficult to reply even briefly to all the suggestions and remarks made by those who have taken the floor in the two and a half hours or so of this important debate.
Mr Rajamäki, you mentioned earlier that today’s debate concerned certain priorities for the European Union, one of which is certainly the fight against terrorism. We have not talked about it much today, but you are all perfectly aware that just this summer, thanks to some painstaking cooperation, the security authorities in three European countries – the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany – have foiled some terrorist attacks that could have proved devastating. Terrorism still remains the main threat to our democracy.
In my view, there is no link between terrorism and immigration, and I share the opinions of those who have pointed that out. Immigration is undoubtedly a separate priority: it is a challenge, not a danger to the European Union. Many of you have mentioned co-development policies, especially with African countries. I can tell you that the Commission, which is always somewhat ambitious when drawing up proposals, has proposed allocating EUR 17 billion – a substantial sum – to the new European fund for the development of countries such as those in Africa, and that the co-development policies that many have called for will be enhanced accordingly.
There will be co-development policies targeting institutional stabilisation, the fight against corruption, and good governance. These are all co-development initiatives aimed at improving their capacity to prevent the flow of migrants, as many of you hope.
Mr Barón Crespo mentioned the problem of the take-up of the available European funds. I fully agree with Mr Barón Crespo, and I call on the Member States once more to draft some projects: European funds can only be spent if projects are put forward by EU Member States. In recent years, unfortunately, several funds made available by the Commission have not been spent for lack of projects. I invite all the Member States to put forward more projects, so that further initiatives can be financed.
A great deal has been said about prevention, protection and maritime borders, referring to the Mediterranean. We are going to submit a project for the integrated management of the Mediterranean border to the ministers in Luxembourg for their approval. I should like to say something to all those who have spoken in harsh terms, which I do not endorse, of a kind of ‘European armada’ to wage war on immigrants. I should just like to mention – and this is directed in particular to Mrs Flautre, whom I hold in great esteem – that had it not been for the patrols in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic this summer, had it not been for thousands of coastguards, police and security operatives, many thousands of immigrants would have drowned at sea.
The primary purpose of the patrol boats is to save people’s lives at sea and not to wage war on immigrants. The truth is therefore precisely the opposite of what was suggested: it is in the interests of safety that we intend to propose a system that all the governments have asked us to provide.
The subject of the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean certainly deserves to be debated thoroughly. With regard to Libya, I shall only say that that country has agreed to talks with the European Union, which we shall begin in practical terms on the basis, above all, of a guarantee of full compliance with the rules on the dignity of the person and respect for the individual. We have demanded this of Libya just as we demand it of all our other non-EU interlocutors. Libya has asked for help in controlling its southern border: its 2 000-km desert border is practically uncontrollable, and one of the requests that we have received is: ‘help us to control this border better, and we can help you to control people before they set off and, above all, to eradicate people trafficking,’ which unfortunately often takes place across the Mediterranean.
We have a duty to start talks with Libya, and we must do so on the basis of mutual respect between the European Union and its non-European partners. The African Union-European Union conference on immigration, to be held in Tripoli, will be a further signal to make Libya understand that we want not only Libya but also all the countries in North Africa to be seriously involved.
I should like to make a couple of final considerations. The first concerns solidarity. Many people have mentioned solidarity. I believe that we need to take a global approach towards solidarity, just as we do towards immigration, because we must show solidarity above all to the victims of people trafficking. That is the first kind of solidarity that we must have.
Then there is the solidarity that we must show towards the African countries of origin, as well as the transit countries, as they too are exposed to an often uncontrolled flow of people. Then there is also the solidarity among Member States within the European Union. We must not deny the importance of mutual solidarity among countries in the European Union, since it is one of the forms that the word ‘solidarity’ must take. How can we forget that countries like Malta or the small islands of the Canaries or Lampedusa cannot deal with the ongoing flow of illegal immigrants by themselves? That, too, is solidarity.
There is the human solidarity towards the people who land on our coasts; there is also the solidarity that countries far from the Mediterranean must show towards countries surrounded by or bordering the Mediterranean.
The second topic is respect for the law. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not think the European Union can be asked to turn something illegal into something legal, because, where a law has been broken, the infringement remains an infringement. Those who deal in human beings must be punished severely and without tolerance. When people provide work illegally and under cover and take advantage of illegal immigrant workers, there have to be sanctions. When people get into the EU by breaking all the laws and remain in the EU by breaking all the laws, European policy must respect the dignity of the individual, but it must also be credible and must send those who have broken the law back to their countries of origin; otherwise we shall be giving the impression that they can break the law and nothing will happen to them.
Lastly, my final consideration concerns our institutional and constitutional policy. We have talked about it a great deal: we need vision, as Mr Schulz and many others have said, to steer and to activate the political processes. I cannot imagine us lagging behind civil society; I cannot imagine us, as institutions, waiting for civil society to give us a push or even to show its dissatisfaction with our capacity for political leadership.
Many people mentioned the need to give up national self-interest. I see this as a central theme: if we and the Member States’ governments realise that not even they stand to benefit from sticking to their national self-interests, then those governments will understand that national pride, which many of us consider important, can be upheld rather better if we pool our common policies.
Upholding national pride by maintaining that immigration or terrorism can be addressed solely through national policies is not a matter of upholding national pride or upholding the great principles behind so many countries’ traditions; it is merely not responding to what the people are demanding. That is why we need a political vision with the courage to go in a different direction.
President. I should like to thank all 63 speakers who took part in the debate. I should like to thank the Minister for his brevity and the Commissioner for his passion.
The debate is closed.
The vote will be tomorrow.
Written statements (Rule 142)
John Attard-Montalto (PSE). – ‘Prevention is better than cure’ is a popular idiom. This issue is one of both prevention and cure.
There is no doubt that the European Union is finally understanding that the problems faced by Malta and other Mediterranean countries affected by the immigration phenomenon will ultimately become a problem of Europe as a whole. And this is the Europe that Malta wanted to join. There is nothing more noble than solidarity. Some, however, are criticising the Union for providing too little too late. Maybe they are right; but better late than never. Definitely two boats to patrol the extension between Gibraltar and Alexandra are inadequate, but on the other hand the request by Libya to help control its 2000 km hinterland borders is extremely good news, especially for Malta. This is part of the policy of prevention.
The process to cure the phenomenon is much more complicated. Unless the endemic African problems of poverty, civil wars, disease, hunger, unemployment, corruption and international debts are addressed and enhanced by a system of good rule and justice, the problem of irregular immigration will remain irresolvable.
I cannot but criticise some European countries for squabbling over financial help to their partners – Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece – which are doing their best to alleviate the plight of irregular immigrants.
Alessandro Battilocchio (NI). – (IT) Achieving a European common policy on immigration and asylum is undoubtedly a priority, although the Member States have so far shown varying degrees of willingness to address the problem.
However, the need to tackle the problem of illegal immigration is, in my view, even more urgent. Despite the institutions’ repeated calls for cooperation, the main burden of this still falls on the Member States located on the European Union’s natural borders. Practical solutions therefore need to be found urgently to contain and regulate the problem. Coordinating the border forces of the various Member States is useful but not enough.
The idea of setting up a joint border task force is certainly the most appropriate solution, and I am grateful to the Finnish Presidency for mentioning it. Not least, dialogue with and support for those countries from which the immigrants come and those through which they pass on their way to Europe are absolutely essential for any lasting, effective solution.
I hope that the forthcoming presidencies, starting with Germany, which receives a large proportion of the immigrants filtering through from the southern borders, will tackle the issue firmly and achieve a consensus on this subject, which closely affects all Europeans as well as the Union’s delicate social balance.