Among the greatest achievements of the European Union is the abolishment of the internal borders. Only a few decades ago, it was very hard to imagine that a Europe where people, goods, services and capital could flow freely between 27 countries would be possible. The opening of the internal borders requires trust between the member states and a good common management of the external borders. The greatest challenge is to secure the trust between the member states and security in the union, without building a Fortress Europe.
In order to strengthen security within the union, I believe that we need a strong mandate for both Europol and Frontex and an increased cooperation between them. Every year 500 000 human beings are being sold as goods within the EU. Most of them are women and children who have been forced to prostitution or to work under inhuman conditions.
Today it is up to each and every member state to fight these crimes, even if the nature of the crime is transnational. We must give the EU agencies the necessary tools to fight trafficking and organised crime. Europol has only an advisory and informative role, also when it comes to transnational crime, which makes it impossible to stop the traffickers.
If the criminals can’t see any borders, neither should we. Europol should have the ultimate responsibility when it comes to investigations where several member states are involved while at the same time work in close cooperation with national law enforcement authorities.
In September 2011 a new mandate for Frontex was adopted. I was very happy with the result that involved a secured respect for human rights in all Frontex operations. That includes that all operations should be paused or terminated when there is reason to believe that human rights have been violated.
Critics will call this necessary strengthening of Europol and Frontex a European FBI and claim that the EU is driven towards a federation. This superficial criticism makes a debate based on facts difficult and meanwhile, thousands of women are forced to selling their bodies while the traffickers are making a huge profit, untouchable by the police.
The institutions are currently working on the framework for Eurosur (European external border surveillance system). I am very happy that the European Parliament’s contribution to this report focused on saving lives. There should be no doubt that what we are trying to fight and control is serious crime, not people. No human being is ever illegal.People may find irregular ways to reach our borders, but they should not be targeted as illegal. For people in need of international protection, there is soon a new European asylum system in place that will ensure a fair procedure and protection offered to those in need.
There are also many people coming to the EU who are not asylum seekers but economic migrants or workers. However, although Europe may have been a very attractive working market for many skilled people around the world, that is changing. China and India are by far more successful in attracting skilled workforce whilst in Europe, complicated bureaucracy and scepticism towards immigrants make people refrain from coming here.
In Europe today we have an ageing population and if there is no change in work and retirement patterns in the EU, the old age dependency ratio may reach almost one older retired person for every worker by 2050. Europe will increasingly rely on immigration to fill vacant jobs and ensure economic growth. It is therefore regrettable that still today third country nationals are facing problems with higher unemployment rates and jobs of lower quality for which they are overqualified. The solution is a proactive migration policy which attracts skilled migrants from third countries and an institutional framework that better utilises their skills and competences.
A proactive migration policy would solve labour market shortages in some areas and there is also evidence that shows that the skills of migrants are often complementary to the skills of other workers and that leads to a positive effect for the employers and the economic activity. Immigration can also contribute to entrepreneurship, diversity and innovation. The people coming to Europe are often strong and driven persons with a will and ability to contribute. That is also many times true for asylum seekers. The people that are the worst off and in the most need of asylum, sadly never make it to Europe. The people who do come here have suffered terrible things and also managed to rise from them. That shows ability that we should care for and not close our doors to.
We must also keep in mind that Europe about 100 years ago was a continent of departure. People left to seek a better future in America, where they contributed to the prosperity of their new homeland and at the same time created a good life for themselves. Now, Europe is to many people a continent of destination. History shows that people are by nature migrants. In our global world, we must more than ever before adapt to this.