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  • 23/09/2015
  • 16:05
  • Statements and remarks
  • 674/15
  • Foreign affairs & international relations

Good afternoon. For many days I have tried to moderate discussions between Member States, but we have now reached a critical point where we need to end the cycle of mutual recriminations and misunderstandings. 

Today, our debate must be based on facts, not illusions and emotions. In brief, the situation is the following: 

One, conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, will not end anytime soon. 

Two, there are eight million displaced people within Syria, while about four million have fled from Syria to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. This means that today we are talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands. 

Three, after my visits to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region, I realised that our partners are expecting our help to solve their refugee problems rather than thinking of how they can help us. It is likely that more refugees towards Europe will flow through their countries, not less. Especially since almost all of them feel invited to Europe. 

In light of this, the most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders? Otherwise it does not make sense to even speak of a common European migration policy. What is at stake is also the future of Schengen, and a sense of order and a common European spirit. 

Today I will also propose to leaders to agree on a number of short-term measures such as: 

  • more help for the refugees in the region through the World Food Programme and UNHCR;
  • more help for Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region;
  • more help for the EU frontline countries; and
  • immediate strengthening of our external border control, through Frontex, the European Asylum Office and Europol.

These measures will not end the crisis, I am fully aware of this, but they are all necessary steps in the right direction. Today, we must prepare a concrete plan, which must finally appear in place of the arguments and the chaos we have witnessed in the last weeks. This plan must be our common plan. Nobody will be outvoted. Thank you.