CoR members held a debate today with Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, who joined the CoR plenary session for a discussion on the state-of-play of the European Union's migration agenda, focusing on the integration of migrants into local communities and the labour market.
In his opening speech, Commissioner Avramopoulos emphasised the important role of cities and regions in dealing with the migration crisis:
"We cannot take the question of integration lightly. It is not about providing a Band Aid solution or quick fixes. It is about offering equal opportunities, full participation and genuine belonging to migrants. Integration is not an urgency. It is a social and economic necessity, and must become a centralised, mainstreamed and long-term priority for the entire European Union", the Commissioner urged and underlined that as a former mayor of Athens, he knows the challenges facing local authorities.
Speaking on behalf of the PES Group, Apostolos Katsifaras, Head of the Region of Western Greece, stressed the need for resolute European action in addressing migration.
"What we are witnessing is a structural crisis in response to migration, which has been in the making for a very long time and which is exacerbated by a populist narrative. The EU must offer answers to us regional leaders and mayors, both within member states and at their borders, by putting an end to austerity policies, promoting public investment notably in the integration of migrants and in tackling the root causes of migration", he urged.
"Only if we stand and act together in solidarity, can Europe have a democratic perspective", he concluded, calling for a relaxation of the application of the Dublin Regulation.
Following the debate, the CoR adopted an opinion on the Implementation of the European Agenda on Migration with a number of successful PES amendments, covering the different aspects of migration policy, notably highlighting the need to protect vulnerable groups, and pointing out that the EU-Turkey agreement, though having reduced the number of arrivals to Greece, needs to be evaluated critically and does not replace a more comprehensive EU migration and asylum policy.
Promoting a more humane migration and integration policy is one of the PES Group's political priorities. Concrete solutions will be further debated at the TOGETHER event on "Managing migration and supporting refugees in and globalised world", organised by the S&D Group in the European Parliament in Hamburg on 12 April, and in which the PES Group will take an active part.