‘More Europe’ – EU Commissioner Avramopoulos’ speech

EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, referring to the Borders Package in a speech in Strasbourg said:

“Let me start by giving the base line: what we are presenting today is more Europe.

As I said in the plenary before, today’s proposals prove that the current crisis doesn’t divide us but on the contrary becomes a catalyst for us to move ahead, more united, more decided, more resolved.

So let’s cut to the chase immediately.

Today we present to you a European Border and Coast Guard Agency which will build upon the current Frontex agency, with a stronger mandate and extended roles. The primary objective of the new Agency is to support all Member States in managing our external borders collectively.

We are not presenting invasive measures, but supportive and preventive measures. Yes, the agency will be able, in cases of pressure at external borders, to intervene both at the specific request from the Member States, and also without.

But Member States remain primarily responsible for the management of external borders, and we do not take away their sovereignty.

What we propose is a more comprehensive and collective managing of our external borders, based primarily on prevention and cooperation at early stage.

Our objective is precisely to avoid that pressure at our external borders becomes a crisis.

Emergency interventions would hopefully only be a measure of last resort.

As you know, the Agency will also have an extended role in return actions, with a dedicated EU Return Office.

This means that the new Agency will also be able to initiate return operations, instead of just coordinate them.

Member States of course retain the sole competence of issuing return decisions according to EU law – but we need to become better at effectively and more swiftly returning those who have no right to stay here.

An important step has also been taken today to safeguard freedom of movement, by enhancing security.

We are proposing a targeted modification of the Schengen Border Code to introduce the obligation to carry out systematic checks against relevant databases at the external borders on everyone.

This means that returning foreign terrorist fighters, who are EU citizens like the ones who perpetrated the Paris attacks, will no longer be able to return unnoticed.

We can only have a Schengen area without internal borders if its external ones are effectively secured and well protected.

I cannot repeat it enough: Schengen is the greatest achievement of European integration and we are absolutely committed to upholding and strengthening it.

But today is not just about borders.

Managing the refugee crisis requires a comprehensive approach.

That is why, in addition we agreed to recommend a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme for persons displaced by the Syrian conflict who are currently living in Turkey. With this we create legal, organised ways of entry in order to avoid dangerous unorganied massive flows.

Moreover we recognise the difficult situation Sweden is in with exceptional pressure on the asylum system and are proposing to suspend, for a period of one year, the obligations of Sweden to relocate asylum seekers from Italy and Greece.

Finally our migration package of today includes reports on how the Schengen area is functioning and what Italy and Greece have achieved as frontline Member States and what they have still to do.

All this shows above all that the European Commission means business when we talk about a holistic approach to managing migration and security challenges.

It shows that we want to support Member States, that we want concrete actions to ensure solidarity, responsibility. Concrete actions that are a response to the expectations of the citizens.”