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IEP Lunch Debate with Director-General Matthias Ruete, DG HOME

On the 26 September 2017 our Lunch Debate with Matthias Ruete, Director General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission, took place at the European House in Berlin on the topic of: “The future of the European Asylum and Migration Archi­tecture”. At the outset of the event, Richard Kühnel, Head of the Repre­sen­tation of the European Commission in Germany, greeted the speaker and our guests. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, Director of the Institute for European Politics (IEP), chaired the event.

Within his intro­ductory remarks, Richard Kühnel empha­sized the topicality and relevance of the discussion on the future of the European Asylum and Migration archi­tecture. Since the eruption of the migration crisis two years ago, the European Union has initiated a number of important measures to fully recover from the crisis and confi­dently tackle the challenges of the future. Never­theless, Richard Kühnel recon­firmed the impor­tance of the guiding European principle of a European continent that is steered by solidarity. Additionally he argued that the handling of the migration crisis will only be feasible through a pan-European demon­stration of solidarity.

At the beginning of his speech, General Director Matthias Ruete empha­sized the complex position of the European Union and Germany within a global period of change and turmoil. In recent years, the stability of the European Union has been put to the test, as a result of increasing migration movements. Never­theless, he recalled, that, besides migration, the European Union also has a number of other areas of concern, which can only be repaired through a unified and sustainable Europe. However, such a successful, unified and sustainable Europe of the future can only survive, if other European issues, such as digiti­zation and economic growth, are not neglected as a result of a political focus on migration.  Additionally, he indicated that the complexity of the topic of migration requires a deepened assessment of European security policies and the Schengen area.

Furthermore, Mr. Ruete assessed the beginning and the devel­op­ments of the migration crisis and empha­sized that, following the beginning of the crisis in 2016, a trans­for­mation and reori­en­tation of the European migration policy took place through measures such as the ten point action plan of the EU Commission, the formation of Hotspots along the external European borders and a unified EU migration agenda. The most important component for the management of the migration crisis has been a closer cooper­ation between member states, based on five key terms: “protect, protect, reject, attract, and integrate.”

The first term “protect” symbolizes the European under­standing of a shared respon­si­bility for the control and protection of external European borders. Partic­u­larly during the crisis, this was frequently demanded by Eastern European states. In order to ensure the protection of the external borders, the European Union has initiated multiple new measures. Hereby, Mr. Ruete highlighted the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), founded just under a year ago, and its new instrument for a more suffi­cient risk analysis. Mr. Ruete indicated that in case member states refuse to provide additional capac­ities for the protection of the external borders, border controls may be intro­duced in form of sanctions.

The second term “protect” stands for the secondary refugee protection. Its imple­men­tation shall be simplified through the estab­lishment of a European asylum agency. In addition, a coherent reform of the Dublin Regulation is being pursued. Moreover, Mr. Ruete demanded more recog­nition for states, such as Italy and Greece, as they have carried a great burden and immense respon­si­bility during the migration crisis as a result of their geographic location along the external European borders.

The third term “reject” substan­tiates a more efficient imple­men­tation of repatri­ation proce­dures of refugees.  As part of his expla­nation, Mr. Ruete predicted that about 1.5 million asylum seekers will have to be repatriated in the coming year. Hence, a feasible imple­men­tation of such measures is of great impor­tance for the future and mainte­nance of European-wide migration policies.

The fourth term “attract” stresses the need to establish more legal forms of migration into the European Union, partic­u­larly for individuals in need of protection and highly qualified nationals from third countries. In this context, he reaffirmed the demands for a compre­hensive European Immigration Law in order to unify the European “rag rug” of differing national laws.

One of the biggest challenges of the migration crisis has been the integration of those seeking protection, which is described by the fifth term “integrate”. In order to guarantee a successful integration of migrants, an enhanced cooper­ation with trade unions and companies will be of great impor­tance in the future. In addition, compre­hensive integration initia­tives will have to be estab­lished on a domestic level through the financial support and network of the EU.

In the discussion following Mr. Ruete’s speech, various questions on the European asylum and migration agenda have been raised. Hereby, Matthias Ruete confirmed the possi­bility of finan­cially supporting those member states that actively partic­ipate in the integration process of migrants. Additionally he called for sanctions as a response to those states that refuse any form of partic­i­pation. In conclusion, he empha­sized the urgency to initiate negoti­a­tions with third countries, both with regard to readmission agree­ments and the current situation in refugee shelters.

The Institute for European Politics would like to express their gratitude to Mr. Richard Kühnel for his intro­ductory statement, Matthias Ruete for his extensive speech on the future of the EU Asylum and migration archi­tecture, as well as to all guests for the lively discussion.

Authors: Paul Leon Wagner, Lea Michel