The refugee crisis has been on the spotlight in Oviedo, Spain, which hosted a meeting of the CIVEX commission of the European Committee of the Regions on 22 September. Members voted a migration package that sets out the perspective of the European Union's cities and regions on the current migration crisis. It contributes to the European migration agenda. Official figures indicate that 1.8 million migrants crossed into Europe in 2015.
Local and regional authorities are in the frontline of the current refugee crisis, facing serious difficulties in managing migration flows and integrating immigrants. The Commission for Citizenship, Governance, Institutional and External Affairs (CIVEX) of the European Committee of the Regions met in the Spanish city of Oviedo with the migration crisis on the discussion table. Cities and regions want their views and proposals to be taken into account as the European Commission launched the migration package reform last May. The migration package drafted by CIVEX is to be voted on at CoR's plenary session in December.
François Decoster (FR/ALDE), CIVEX chair said: "We must avoid the risk of fracturing the EU and we must commonly address the refugee crisis with an improved migration package. The CoR is taking an integrated approach by considering four main aspects: asylum, legal migration, the integration of nationals of third countries and partnerships with non-EU countries. We call on Member States to assume their responsibilities and urge the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to adopt and implement new measures rapidly."
Delegates adopted by majority a draft opinion on the 'Reform of the Common European Asylum System'.
Rapporteur Vincenzo Bianco, Mayor of Catania (IT/PES), said: " We are facing a structural crisis. We must have the courage to face it with sense of solidarity and responsibility. That is why we are proposing measures to protect fundamental rights, particularly those of children. The asylum system needs to be fairer and more effective." Bianco is proposing that the country of arrival should be a secondary criterion and is asking Member States and the EU to guarantee long-term funding. Bianco has been appointed rapporteur of an additional CoR opinion on asylum, to evaluate and make recommendations on the European Commission’s second asylum package.
On 'legal migration', rapporteur Olgierd Geblewicz, President of Westpomerania Region (PL/EPP), said: "The revision of EU blue card will attract human capital from third countries and enable Europe to face sectorial shortages that may limit growth as Europe’s demography is defied." Geblewicz considers it necessary to develop a single, generally accepted method of collecting data on the demand for highly skilled workers. Geblewicz stresses the potentially key role of European regions in the collection of this type of data.
Karl Vanlouwe , Member of the Flemish Parliament (BE/EA) and rapporteur of the adopted draft opinion on the 'Integration of third-country nationals', declared: "Language skills are a priority in efforts to fully integrate legal newcomers into our societies. We have to focus on community-building, through tailor-made civic integration. European norms and values are crucial, and we should defend them actively. Integration and civic integration should be based upon rights and obligations, both for newcomers and the host community."
An exchange of views took place on Peter Bossman’s (SI/PES) opinion on the Partnership Framework with third countries. Bossman, who is the Mayor of the Municipality of Piran in Slovenia, declared: "The framework has the short-term objectives to save lives, increase rates of return and enable refugees to stay close to their homes. As Europe needs qualified young people to ensure its competitiveness, circular migration could be a solution. In the long term, we need to address root causes properly, developing an ambitious External Investment Plan that is friendly, accessible and readable."
The work of the European Committee of the Regions to tackle the refugee crisis will continue with a forum on integration in December, as well as a conference on integration on 22 February 2017, organised in cooperation with the Maltese presidency of the EU.
The CIVEX commission also approved by majority François Decoster’s opinion on REFIT, the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme launched by the European Commission in 2012 to assess and improve EU legislation in a large range of policy areas.