Safe borders, safe Europe

A European asylum and migration policy that welcomes and protects. Safe borders mean a safe Europe.
Safe borders mean a safe Europe. (Foto: Tobias Koch)
Safe borders mean a safe Europe. (Foto: Tobias Koch)

The European Union’s borders are under great pressure. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, we have welcomed more than 4 million refugees, but we have also faced Belarusian and Russian attempts to use migrants as a weapon. In Southern Europe, the number of people entering Europe illegally has doubled since last year. We have all seen the overcrowded reception centres and the wrecks – for they cannot be called boats – that traffickers use to send people to their deaths in the Mediterranean. For us, in the EPP Group, it is clear: Europe must be more present at our borders.

For one in three European citizens, migration is the biggest challenge facing Europe today. Our citizens are right: migration is a challenge, but a challenge we can win. The extreme right and the left would have us believe that we have to choose between a welcoming Europe and a secure Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth: we can and must have both. We must close our borders to threats, traffickers and crime and open them to those who want to come to Europe in a safe, legal and dignified way. Much of Europe’s credibility will depend on our ability to adopt policies that make people feel safe.

In recent years, right-wing populists have spread fear without doing anything to secure our borders – they have always voted against Frontex, for example. The Socialists and the Greens have slowed down or even blocked important discussions on migration in the European Parliament. Instead, the EPP Group leadership has moved European migration policy forward. We agreed on the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, strengthened Frontex by building up a standing corps of up to 10,000 officers, funded physical infrastructure at the EU’s external borders and initiated closer cooperation with Tunisia. Our efforts have brought a safe and welcoming Europe within reach. Now it is time to make it a reality.

First, we need secure borders that cut off the smugglers’ business.¬† More than 90 per cent of irregular migrants pay smugglers. Trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business, agile, ruthless and often supported by governments seeking to destabilise the European Union. Our best common tools are Frontex, to strengthen our borders, and Europol, to improve police cooperation and support investigations into criminal networks and migrant smuggling.

We in the EPP Group want to triple the number of Frontex staff up to 30,000 personnel, making it a stronger border and coast guard with more enforcement powers. Border insecurity is a real source of threat, so we are prepared to consider border protection facilities when and where necessary. We in the EPP Group want to strengthen Europol’s capacity to support Member States in their fight against migrant smuggling and human trafficking by creating a new European Centre on Migrant Smuggling within Europol, which will provide strategic, operational and technical support to national law enforcement authorities and systematically involve other relevant EU agencies such as Frontex and Eurojust.

What we see is often just the last leg of a terrible journey. A journey that began much further afield. We must also prevent people from leaving by processing asylum applications in EU reception centres outside the EU, where asylum seekers can be safely received and their claims assessed in an efficient, dignified and humane manner. We must also conclude readmission agreements and establish close cooperation with all major third countries of origin and transit to strengthen their reception and border capacities and to prevent migrants from embarking on desperate and deadly journeys.

Cooperation promotes more cooperation, and Europe has all the cards to build an equal partnership with African countries. Together, we can address the root causes of migration, fight brain drain, and ensure that those skilled workers who want to access our labour market have the best conditions to do so.

European citizens do not want to choose between the hatred of the far right and the ignorance of the left; Europeans want a plan to make Europe safe and welcoming. The EPP Group is the only group that can deliver it. For us, asylum and migration are not about fear or ideology. It is about solidarity and security because one cannot exist without the other. Safe borders mean a safe Europe.


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