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EU Commissioner advances idea of common migration policy

Posted on 25 June 2012

Malmstrom-EUIThe European Commissioner for Home Affairs said today that EU member states were too concerned with border and economic security to fulfil their duty to support the Arab Spring, and pushed for a Europe-wide migration policy.

“Instead of worrying about what was happening to people throwing out dictators, walking out on the streets and saying, ‘We want democracy! We want freedom!’ the reaction from the EU was, ‘We have a crisis so stay where you are’,” said Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, speaking at the launch of the Migration Policy Centre (MPC). The MPC aims to tackle the problems associated with migration, while also harnessing it as a way to combat Europe’s aging population and shortage of skilled workers.

Malmström is currently trying to correct what she sees as the “historical mistake” made during revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East, by negotiating partnerships with Tunisia and Morocco, and engaging with other states – both at home and abroad – on migration issues. “We are not going to repeat that mistake,” she asserted, “We are redefining political intercourse, we are setting up national assistance and we are stepping up our contribution to help in the democratic transition.”

But thwarting such efforts are the 27 EU member states, preoccupied by economic woes that are compounded by the rise of right-wing political parties. “There have never been so many so many right-wing extremist parties in assemblies today since 1945,” the Commissioner warned, adding that the MPC must seek to counter the “alarmist and wrong” portrayal of migrants being circulated by xenophobic parties.

“Migration has always been a part of Europe – migration to Europe and from Europe, and this is a good thing,” she said. “People are moving around, bringing new ideas, culture, social trends, innovation and new research. We must embrace those opportunities and take advantage of all those things.”

With youth unemployment on the rise across the EU, at around 50 per cent in Greece and Spain, many states are unwilling to welcome economic migrants. But Malmström argued that skilled migrants will play a key role in recovering the Eurozone, and called for a European migration policy that will be mutually beneficial for receiver and sender countries. Part of this is the Blue Card system, which intends to attract skilled workers to the EU through a single process.

This must be extended to a common asylum policy, as 10 member states currently absorb around 90 per cent of asylum seekers, Malmström said. “We have a special responsibility to help those that struggle against oppressive regimes, even more so when they are our neighbours.”

Uniting 27 states under one policy may be some way in the future, but the Commissioner remained confident that the MPC would play a key role in fostering cooperation between states.

Text by Rosie Scammell