EU migration policy: a future challenge and an opportunity for change

By Daría Terrádez Salom, Directora General de Relaciones con la UE y el Estado, Presidencia, Generalitat Valenciana

A few days ago, we awoke to a new rescue of people on the Mediterranean sea, although unfortunately 34 of those people had already passed away. The emergency services recovered 34 corpses, 34 personal life stories, 34 fervent wishes to improve their lives in civilized Europe. The so-called refugee crisis is one of the worst scourges that the European Union is trying to overcome, without much success, as the deaths continue in such a way that they do not surprise us.

We have become accustomed to seeing extreme rescues on the high seas, floating corpses and abandoned children in distress; we have become accustomed to the worst image of the European Union. And not only are refugees suffering from asylum policies far removed from the most minimal respect for human rights, but the same has happened with migration policies. These have always been framed within the context of internal security, which demonstrates that the management of migratory flows is approached from a negative approximation, because they are a problem and not an opportunity.

Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union establishes that “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”. Those who arrive on our shores, those making it that far, in search of a better life, fleeing conflict and poverty stricken situations are perhaps not as deserving as European citizens? Such words as tolerance, justice and dignity are emptied of all meaning alongside images of a new rescue at sea or of refugee camps accepted and funded by the EU.

In the year of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, of the commencement of a project that, together with the Council of Europe, sought to restore sanity to a Europe devastated by war and by the worst human condition, the European Union should stop for a moment and reflect. Added to all this is a xenophobic and racist discourse launched by clearly anti-European political formations that are widening the division even more, were it possible, between citizens and institutions. It is time to turn towards the more humane EU, it is time to hold onto its founding principles and reconstruct it upon the foundations of respect for fundamental rights and the dignity of the person. The people who die on the high seas understood nothing of statistics, nor of security measures, nor of high-level negotiations; they only saw our coasts as a safe place.

The migration and asylum policy of the European Union will therefore have to be recast, not from a defensive, but from an open attitude that shows solidarity. The EU now has the chance to change this state of affairs, to bring its citizens closer to its policies, to its institutions and to halt the rise of an extreme right wing that denies the democratic principles upon which its structure should be founded.

In view of all this, the European Commission should take more account of the regions and their governments, as these are the ones that have the greatest capability to take action. They know the reality on the ground and of their citizens and they can provide a better and swifter response to all the challenges that migratory flows imply. It should perhaps be ourselves in the regions, with our municipalities at the forefront, who take the lead in demanding a more humane common migration policy that, despite it being necessary, is still too centred on matters of security. This, as mentioned previously, does nothing at all to help the welcome extended to the people arriving in our cities. The opening of a form of dialogue between the regions and the Commission could be proposed, since ultimately they are the best actors to shed some light on this “human problem” above all.