European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference following an EU Summit video conference at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, 19 November 2020 | Photo: EPA/OLIVIER MATTHYS / POOL
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a news conference following an EU Summit video conference at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium, 19 November 2020 | Photo: EPA/OLIVIER MATTHYS / POOL

At a high-level conference on migration on November 19, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen underscored that Italy, Greece, and Spain are concerned that they do not have the capacity to deal with migration flows and that they need help from other European countries.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday called for member states to agree to an overhaul of the EU system to manage migrants and asylum seekers to ensure that the countries most exposed to the problem, such as Italy, receive more help.

"It is important for the EU to create a long-term migration-management system that is fully based on European values and this is why the European Commission approved a new pact on migration and asylum at the end of September," von der Leyen told a high-level conference on migration and asylum.

"Migration is a complex issue. There are many genuine concerns to reconcile," she said. "We must talk about the concerns of countries at the external frontier of the Union, such as Italy, Greece and Spain. They are worried that their efforts to manage migration go beyond their capacity and they need the solidarity of others."

She stressed that a sustainable solution was needed and was needed immediately, noting that "we owe it to refugees and our citizens."

Calls for compromise

"Migration is a fact for Europe -- and always will be," she said, adding that it enriches societies and brings new talent to countries if well managed. Otherwise, she warned, "and we know this from experience," it has the potential to divide.

Given the urgency of local situations in several member states, she said, it is pointless to "fight yesterday's battles."

Von der Leyen noted that a single solution on migration satisfying everyone does not exist and that compromises must be made in national parliaments, the European Parliament, and national governments. She stressed that it is necessary to recognize existing differences but to get past them and move on.

EU action plan for integration in the offing

The European Commission president called for more legal channels for migrants to arrive in Europe and that they be granted clear rights in the bloc, where "they must feel welcome."

She urged that those arriving in the EU be given opportunities to develop their potential within societies and announced that the Commission would this next week be presenting a 2021-2027 action plan on integration and inclusion.

 

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