by Guy Verhofstadt
(Addressed to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz as Austria takes over the EU Presidency)
You talk a lot about migration. That it is your priority. That we have to be tough on migration. But I have to tell you being Council president is much more than being Prime Minister and scoring points at home. Being president is about building bridges and finding difficult compromises. On more than one file. On Brexit, on the reform of the Eurozone reform and yes, on what is called the migration crisis.
I won’t go into detail on Brexit. We are expecting a white paper on the 9th of July, after the retreat of the UK government in Chequers. I fear that the match of England against Colombia this evening could be easier than the game — the fight I read it in the press — in Chequers Friday.
Secondly, the eurozone reform. The Council — let’s be honest — gave birth to a mouse. All proposals, except the single resolution fund, have been delayed again. We are not ready for the next financial crisis.
And then there is the migration crisis, the so-called migration crisis. I use the words ‘so called’ because I think it’s not a migration crisis that we are seeing today. But a political crisis.
So what these figures tell us is clear. The latest episode in this drama was not caused by a dramatic increase of refugees. On the contrary, it started with a pure opportunistic decision by one guy, by Mr. Salvini, closing the ports to a boat. That was a pure opportunistic decision triggering a political deadlock.
Mr Salvini doesn’t want any refugees in Italy anymore. He wants that they go to Germany, Austria or even Hungary. Mr. Orbàn, the friend of Mr. Salvini, doesn’t want them in Hungary. He wants them to stay in Italy, in Austria, in Germany. Your friend Mr. Seehofer doesn’t want them in Germany. He wants them to be pushed back to Italy, to Hungary or to your country to Austria. And you — you already said it — you don’t want them in Austria. You want that they stay in Italy, Germany, or maybe that they go to Hungary.
Do you see what the problem is? The problem is that the only consensus the Council and you and your friends can agree on today is “not in my backyard”. While the real solution to the problem is on the European level; together. And it’s your role to make this happen.
1. By creating a real European border and coast guard. We still don’t have it;
2. Completely overhaul of the broken Dublin system. As Parliament has done. What is the Council waiting for;
3. Establishing ‘European reception centres’, where people can ask for asylum. Inside or outside Europe. What’s important in the end is to keep people out of the hands of the smugglers.
4. And finally, setting up a legal system for economic migration.
If you can achieve this, Mr. Prime Minister, you can count on the support of everybody here in this house. And maybe you will not score a lot of points at home but you will have done a great job for this continent.
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