The European Union’s efforts to work with cities and regions in Greece, Italy and other border countries remain inadequate, according to members of the European Committee of the Regions who debated with Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, today.
The EU’s assembly for local and regional politicians expressed particular concern about the challenges faced by islands in the Mediterranean, in an opinion drafted by Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos (EL/EPP), a delegate from the Palaio Faliro municipality. Speaking during the Plenary Session, the rapporteur stressed:
“Local and Regional Authorities bear the main burden of increased refugee and migrant flows. Their on-the-spot activities have been invaluable for dealing with the crisis. It is essential that LRAs are given more support from the EU. And it is equally important that the EU continues its efforts for creating a more solid framework of cooperation among its member states.”
Commissioner Avramopoulos, himself a former Mayor clearly understands the pressure on local and regional authorities, said: “We know that access to EU funding can prove challenging for local and regional authorities, in particular small ones. This is why, in the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, we want to improve the conditions for accessing funding for integration and reduce the administrative burden for final beneficiaries.”
In the debate that followed, Konstantinos Agorastos, Governor of the Region of Thessaly stressed:
“Solidarity between Europeans and respect of our values: Refugees in particular and all migrants in general, are certainly right holders. However, they must also pay respect to the core values of our societies: democracy, culture, freedom, tolerance and rule of law. A geo-political approach which doesn’t neglect security is essential provide our citizens with reliable answers in the medium and long run.”
Bearing in mind that a European Migration policy is the sum of concrete actions in the mutual interest of EU citizens and refugees, the EPP CoR Group insisted on a few, simple but crucial principles:
- Solidarity between Europeans
- A well-functioning revised Common Asylum System
- A Swift return of migrants who are not eligible for international protection
- Safeguard of Schengen
- Respect for EU values.