Speech, General Assembly in Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants

img_488019 September 2016, New York – Address by Mrs Cecilia Wikström, Member of the European Parliament, at the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly in Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants Round Table 2: Addressing drivers of migration, particularly large movements and highlighting the positive contributions of migrants. And the video here (2hrs39mins)

Presidents, fellow delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me underline that not only is this high-level meeting timely, but it also takes place in New York City, a city which has been built by the will and the energy of migrants coming first from European countries and later from all around the world. We are all migrants in one way or another, the sons and daughters of people who left their homes to seek a better future. New York represents a tangible proof of their achievements: a city that is known all around the world for its dynamism and its energy.

The New York declaration achieves outstanding improvement in the way the international community approaches the issue of international mobility. I would like to pay particular tribute to these achievements:

– underlining the shared responsibility;

– the commitment to increase efforts on preventive diplomacy in the case of potential crises;

– the determination to address unsafe movements, without prejudice to the right to seek asylum;

And last but not least,

-the commitment that our response to these movements mainstream a gender perspective, with the empowerment of all women and girls.

I’d like to quote US vice-president Joe Biden here, he recently said in an article: “our greatest strength is not the example of our power but the power of example.”  What he said, does not just apply to the United States of America, it also applies to the European Union and to all of us here attending the 71st UN General Assembly.

Indeed, current migration flows require global action and with the principle of shared responsibility, world leaders acknowledge that it is the responsibility of States to protect the rights of people in need of international protection and to abide by their commitments to international law.

Responsibility sharing is very good and I strongly support it, especially because around 80% of the world’ displaced people are in developing countries.

Of course, global action must really be comprehensive. That is to say that forced migration should not be the only possibility for international mobility. We should speak about migration with two elements legal migration and people in need of internal protection. At the level of the EU and especially its Member States it means implementing a comprehensive policy based on solidarity and on developing legal, safe and orderly migration to the EU.

Global action will depend on our leadership by example.

The European Parliament has always advocated a wider perspective, constantly calling for solutions based on solidarity and shared responsibility according to our treaties. Some of the EU countries’ governments have clearly shown a lack of solidarity and before blaming and shaming, some of us should clear their backyards. It would make the EU more credible.

Now for some time we all agree that the drivers of this unprecedented level of migration need to be addressed especially if we want to remain in control of flows and allow people to move in an orderly, legal and safe way. Let me be clear, the key driver must be the need of the people themselves and not the ability of one country to establish partnerships or cooperate with other countries.

For the European Parliament, we need to keep an eye on long-term development, reducing poverty and inequalities,tackling climate change and improving the lives and the economic and social well-being of people in the world’s poorest countries.

We also need to step up our effort on peace building. At the EU level, especially in the current situation, being a soft power is simply not enough also for our citizens. Of course in the EU we know how to do this, through development and cooperation but above all, capacity building, development of democratic institutions and good governance, also in business.

But in no way, development and cooperation, external assistance are to be based on migration conditionality.

EU external action and internal policies are intertwined regarding management of migration flows that means that EU action at international level will only be credible if it implements its values, respects international law, mobilise enough resources and opens up to safe, orderly and legal migration.

First and foremost, refugees are survivors. They have shown an impressive resilience. I am always impressed by the energy, the creativity and the innovation of people who have left home to settle elsewhere. Refugees and migrants are also a formidable factor for growth.

As stated in the New York declaration, the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development recognises their positive contribution for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

What is also important is to ensure there is genuine integration and enhance the resilience of people in need of international protection and that their preference should be taken into account for resettlement and relocation.

When outside of their country of origin, they should qualify for basic services. But where the international community can make a real difference in fostering their positive contribution is by addressing the issue of a better recognition of foreign qualifications. The international community should ensure that degrees are equivalent worldwide. We have done it in the EU.

If we manage to use their skills, to use their formidable energy by integrating them in the private sector, which also has a paramount role to play their positive contribution to their host communities will be self evident to all.

I was particularly happy to read in the declaration the commitment that governments “will promote faster, cheaper and safer transfer of migrant remittances in both source and recipient countries, including through a reduction of transaction costs”. This is extremely important.

With the challenges that we all face at internal level, with the rise of populism and the temptation of isolationism, and at external level with conflicts and instability, lack of shared prosperity, this high-level meeting, the annexes of the declaration “the comprehensive refugee response framework” and “towards a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration” are the way forward.

I can only pray that leading by example the international community will implement all of these commitments swiftly and without further delay spent on petty arguments.

Thank you.