Statement by Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, on the State of the Union 2015 address

The State of the Union speech presented by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, rightly addresses the current migration crisis. I agree with President Juncker that the time has come for determined action instead of pointing fingers. This is a question of European values – of humanity and dignity.

We must act on three parallel dimensions to find a long-term solution to this question. The most pressing issue is to take care of the flows of migrants within our own borders and make the numbers more manageable to local and regional decision-makers. As emphasised by the Luxembourgish Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, regional and local authorities are at the frontline of the migration crisis: legally responsible for public services, education and basic care for the migrants. The responsible regions need our support in dealing with the migrant flows. In this perspective a clear legal framework and relocation mechanism are crucial for regions and cities.

Globalisation has changed the situation for all of us. The responses that worked in the past do not answer our current questions and we must work differently from now on. At an intermediary level, we must support the conditions and bring sufficient humanitarian aid to the refugee camps. The projects the Commission launched to help the Syrian refugees in Turkey are a step in the right direction.

Thirdly, the number of actions we take to address this issue will never be enough unless we go to the root sources of the crises. Flying people back to insecurity will only feed the work of the human traffickers and smugglers. Undertaking new initiatives in the countries of origin are of utmost importance and the Commission’s €1,8bn trust fund to address the crises in Africa and aid local communities is a welcomed sign. The European Committee of the Regions can contribute to these efforts through its Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM). Supporting local and regional authorities in their task to provide security, rule of law and public services is crucial for rehabilitation and stability.

Lastly, Europe has spent the last decade combating acute crises – Greece and migration are the latest examples. However, our underlining priority should always be to find new income and create a stronger European economy. We should focus on this as our shared European project, supported by our culture of entrepreneurship. Only as a stronger Europe, with a stronger economy and society, can we measure up to the global role we are called to play. This is why growth is the key priority. It is the only way to develop our structural capacity of managing and overcoming crises.

Human Rights