Romano Prodi: Presentation of the October European Council in Brussels - A more prosperous and secure Europe, European Parliament Brussels, 8 October 2003

October 9, 2003

Brussels, 8 October 2003

Mr President,

Honourable Members,

On 16 and 17 October the European Council will get to grips with the questions of strengthening the area of freedom, security and justice and reviving our economy.

Today I would like to focus on these two key areas.

Immigration stopped being a purely national question some time ago. It was transformed into a European question as the ever increasing flow of immigrants and the related crime set the alarm bells ringing in all the Member States.

The management of our borders must therefore become a shared task that we tackle together in the interests of us all.

The coming enlargement will extend the Union's external borders and the new Member States will become responsible for almost all of them.

Alone, the new countries are in no position to manage this onerous task which involves not just policing but also - and perhaps above all - political and social planning.

Our human social conscience tells us that unlawful trafficking in human beings and hopeful voyages undertaken under inhumane conditions are intolerable.

At the same time, we must be firm when dealing with the question of migratory flows and coordinate the management of our borders throughout the Union.

The Thessaloniki European Council showed the way, stressing the need to step up implementation of the Tampere programme, particularly with regard to a common European policy on asylum and migration.

At the next Council the Commission will fulfil the mandate assigned to it by the European Council by presenting a series of measures aimed at completing the common policy swiftly.

As an initial move, the idea of setting up an Agency for the management and operational coordination of border controls is currently being studied and the Council will be able to take a decision by the end of the year. The Agency will not replace national border guards. Its tasks will involve organising horizontal operations such as

  • risk analysis,

  • training,

  • research and

  • the procurement of equipment to be loaned to Member States.
A special study has been done on maritime borders with a view to incorporating them in the overall organisation of the Union's external borders.

The Commission will also propose introducing biometric identification methods for visas and residence permits that will later be incorporated in the major computer systems, most notably the second generation of the Schengen Information System (SIS).

We are also preparing initiatives aimed at making passports more secure. When tackling this sensitive issue, however, we will always bear in mind the need for security and controls to be weighed carefully against our citizens' right to privacy.

The most pressing problem is undoubtedly the question of migratory flows.

Legal immigrants are an economic, cultural and human resource that we must welcome and integrate into our societies as best we can.

A pro-active policy on economic immigration and integration needs therefore to take account of the situation in the immigrants' country of provenance, our economic and social needs and our effective capacity to integrate the new arrivals.

However, it is also our duty to combat illegal immigration. In the coming months we will need to focus on two instruments:

  • readmission agreements and

  • return policies.
As requested by the Council, the Commission has opened negotiations with a large number of third countries to establish how their citizens who entered the European Union unlawfully can be readmitted.

Although great efforts have been made, these are difficult negotiations because the Commission has to persuade third countries to readmit their citizens and allow persons heading for other States to pass through their countries.

Our experience shows that the negotiations are successful only if they are conducted within a broader framework and we can bring to the table a number of incentives. For example, in the Authorised Destination Status (ADS) agreement we reached only last week with China - which includes a readmission clause - trade considerations played a significant role.

The other important point is to offer our partner countries guaranteed immigration quotas, preferably within the context of negotiations involving economic cooperation, development aid and access to markets.

It is essential that the Member States facilitate our negotiating position so that we can reach fair agreements that help to create the necessary climate of collaboration and trust with our partners.

All the various stages of any return policy must be adequately financed.

To ensure that operations are efficient and are conducted with total respect for the dignity of the persons concerned, in autumn the Commission will propose creating a special financial instrument to fund returns over the period from 2004 to 2006.

On the basis of this experience, we will be in a position to include a real European Fund for Repatriation in the Financial Perspective that will enter into force in 2007.

Today we find ourselves having to contend with migratory flows where it is difficult to distinguish between refugees in search of asylum and economic migrants.

We must therefore offer protection to those in need while regulating access for the others in an organised manner.

But first and foremost we need to strengthen the institution of asylum, which is an integral part of our humanitarian tradition that seems to be experiencing a moment of crisis in public opinion.

To implement the Thessaloniki European Council's conclusions by the end of the year the Commission will complete the first phase of the development of the common European asylum system agreed at Tampere by adopting the two Directives not yet in place: one on procedures and one on the definition of refugees .

Honourable Members,

I will now turn to the other major subject that will concern the Brussels Council: reviving Europe's economy.

The last two years have not produced positive signs from our economy. The current picture is of weak growth, little confidence on the part of households and business and low levels of investment.

However, a few recent indicators suggest that the corner may have been turned and that the current period of stagnation may at long last have come to an end.

The underlying economic conditions (the fundamentals) are good because the Member States stuck to the rules and behaved in less divergent ways, particularly following the adoption of the euro and thanks to an increased awareness of the need to implement the structural reforms agreed in Lisbon.

Now the time has come to get our economy on the move again.

With this in mind, last week the Commission adopted the European Initiative for Growth , which will now be put before the Council for approval.

Obviously, the Initiative is based on the Lisbon strategy on investment in networks and knowledge.

However, its objective is to mobilise public and above all private finance in the short term to fund infrastructure projects on a truly European scale and kick-start research and innovation.

The message to our citizens is therefore that we are laying the foundations for structural and long-term improvements to our competitiveness.

There can be no doubt that a European transport and communications network is essential if we are to integrate our economies and increase cohesion within our enlarged Union.

By demonstrating our determination we will send out a clear signal that the Union is at last able to take economic decisions that can no longer be put off.

The new market opportunities guaranteed by the financial commitment of the Member States, the Union and the private sector will in turn encourage the direct involvement of European business.

The direct effects of the investments in the projects will be seen the moment work is started on the construction sites, which in a large number of cases could be fairly soon.

The Initiative I present to you today has benefited from experience gained with previous initiatives and attempts to resolve problems that caused delays and produced patchy results in the past.

As part of the strategy, last week the Commission adopted a package that includes 29 major trans-European network projects involving a total investment of some €220 billion between now and 2020.

This is the overall framework that must be completed if we are to provide the single market with an efficient infrastructure to ensure that Europe's economy develops its competitiveness.

However, it is clear that in the very near future only certain projects will be ready for implementation. The Commission will give the European Council an indication of the timetable for completing the works listed to enable the Heads of State or Government to concentrate all their efforts and give the strongest possible push to jump start the economy in the short term .

While the Initiative looks for a significant private sector input in the basic investment, there is clearly still a key role for public financing.

This makes the balance and, above all, the quality of public expenditure absolutely crucial.

We must direct investment towards growth and encourage private sector involvement.

To increase leverage and thus speed up the completion of the works we propose increasing the contribution from the Community budget from 10% to 30% for the cross-border aspects of the highest priority projects. This will make it far easier to mobilise private sector resources.

However, we also need to give the European Investment Bank a greater role. To this end the Initiative proposes giving it a greater role in easing the burden and sharing the financial risks.

We will also urge the Member States to step up their investment in research and development - in knowledge - and to encourage the development of physical and human capital .

These are the only recipes for safeguarding sustainable employment in the long term.

I will not tire of repeating that the real game of international competition is played on the fields of innovation and advanced research and in centres of excellence. It revolves around the development and transmission of information and knowledge.

We also need to do more in terms of training and lifelong learning for our working population and, of course, the education of our citizens at school.

In addition to the great efforts they are making on structural reform, the Member States will therefore also need to step up their activities in these areas, taking advantage of Community resources such as the Sixth Framework Programme, the Performance reserve and the mid-term review of the Structural Funds in 2004.

Honourable Members,

We must link up the major European research centres, support their activities and make them attractive to academics and scientists all over the world.

We must concentrate on technical and scientific innovation and on ways of helping manufacturers turn innovation into new and more competitive processes and products.

These are the fields on which we will win or lose our future prosperity, our influence on the international stage and our capacity to defend the interests and affirm Europe's values in the world.

We must find the political will to meet this challenge and move forward with determination and ambition.

Thank you.

DN: SPEECH/03/452 Date: 08/10/2003

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