President’s statements after EU talks in Salzburg
European Union – Migration/Brexit – Press conference by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at the end of the informal European summit (excerpts)
Salzburg, 20 September 2018
(Check against delivery)
Late yesterday afternoon we were gathered in Salzburg for this autumn working European summit, and I wanted briefly to report on our discussions. (…)
Our discussions this morning related especially to an issue we’d planned to discuss for a long time as part of the agenda decided on last year, following the proposals I made at the Sorbonne: the issue of the European Union’s security and the fight against terrorism in particular. In recent months we’ve made major progress, for example in combating terrorist financing and coordinating the intelligence services, and this is what we collectively endorsed this morning. And here I want to welcome especially the Commission’s proposal, which France has promoted throughout recent months and which was the basis of a Franco-British initiative of 13 June 2017, namely the compulsory removal from the Internet of content inciting terrorism.
For several years we thought incentives were enough, we thought we could wait; we’re now going to move towards the compulsory removal from the Internet of content inciting terrorism. Legislation will be adopted – as soon as possible, I hope – and it [the content] will be removed within an hour after being put online. That’s a major step forward, and the Commission has widely championed and promoted it.
The Commission also proposed to give the future European prosecutor’s office powers with regard to terrorism, and France fully supports this.
So all these discussions on security, in my view, allowed very concrete and practical progress, like the ones I’ve just mentioned, and above all progress on a multifaceted agenda.
This working meeting was also devoted to two other major current issues, namely migration on the one hand and Brexit on the other. On migration, as I had the opportunity to recall yesterday evening, we basically have four challenges to take up. The first is the issue of arrivals – which this year are lower in number than last year or than Europe experienced in 2015, for example, but which are continuing, in particular via the western route, through Morocco and Spain, and the eastern route – and therefore resolving the problems of continuing arrivals, in particular of illegal migrants.
The second point is the issue of repatriation. What hangs over several European countries today – I’ll take as an example the case of Italy, which has lacked European solidarity in recent years – is the presence of 500,000 to 600,000 migrants who are not in a position to obtain asylum and have to be escorted back to their countries.
The third real issue looming over Europe in terms of migration is so-called secondary movements. While, for example, Germany and France were the main countries receiving asylum applications in 2017, it wasn’t because non-Europeans were arriving in those countries, it was because people who had applied for asylum in other countries had got in, moved around in particular within the Schengen Area and arrived and re-applied very often in France and Germany. And so that’s the third issue, the issue of secondary routes.
And we also have a fourth political issue to resolve, which is mainly an issue Italians are sensitive to: arrivals from Libya. I say it’s political because the flows have markedly diminished in recent months and it’s essentially an issue linked to unilateral choices by some.
I want to clearly distinguish these four points in order, at any rate, to remind you what we’re talking about and the issues we have to discuss. In the face of this, in yesterday’s discussion – which in my view was much calmer, more open and analytical than the one we had in June – there were areas of common ground that we broadly pursued.
First of all, I think there’s strong agreement on stepping up our discussions and dialogue with countries of origin and transit, in particular as far as Africa is concerned. I remind you that the European Union already has a €44-billion investment plan with Africa; a little over €22 billion has already been disbursed or is in the process of being disbursed. So we must continue this work but have fuller dialogue with countries of origin and transit in order, on the one hand, through our development and educational policy… to prevent departures; on the other hand, as part of this relationship, to combat traffickers more effectively, because behind these movements there are organized networks of traffickers; and in order to improve our policy of repatriation to countries of origin, which, as I was saying, lacks effectiveness.
So we decided, first of all, to step up our coordination on these three aspects of the discussion with African countries, and to give the presidency a mandate, in particular with countries that have Mediterranean coastlines, which are countries of transit, to organize dialogue on behalf of the European Union – this was started with Egypt a few days ago –, but?/and? to continue this. Under no circumstances should this dialogue promote solutions that are not in keeping with our values and rights, in particular disembarkation platforms that are not in accordance with what the UNHCR promotes, but it’s relevant, useful dialogue precisely in terms of managing to be more effective.
The second important issue in terms of migration, in addition to this dialogue with Africa, is strengthening our common borders. Divergent or dissonant voices may have been raised on this issue, but there’s nevertheless broad consensus on moving forward on the basis of the proposal made by the European Commission to strengthen Frontex, i.e. the European agency which protects our borders.
Indeed, we have an area of free movement and all the advantages of this. If we want to protect our fellow citizens more effectively, which is what we’re looking to do, we’ve got to invest and organize ourselves better to protect our common borders. And in this respect, I fully support the European Commission’s proposal and I think it’s also the only coherent response to the challenges we have.
The third subject on which there was strong agreement was the proposal made by the European Commission to speed up the repatriation directive. I mentioned it earlier to emphasize our lack of effectiveness on this point; it requires reorganized dialogue with the countries of origin in Africa, but it also requires us to change our rules. The Commission has made effective proposals on this; I’d like those to be adopted as soon as possible, and there was strong agreement on this point too.
Finally, we’d like to make progress – and the Commission showed itself to be positive and encouraging on this point – on the radical reform of Dublin, i.e. our internal rules for organizing responsibility and solidarity within our area. However, along with Germany and a few other countries, we said our priority was clearly still to establish a lasting, organized mechanism for showing solidarity when taking in migrants needing protection who are rescued at sea, while abiding by our law, i.e. disembarkation in the nearest safe port, and quickly repatriating people not eligible for asylum. And we indicated our willingness to work on this mechanism from the first days and weeks, with those countries that would like to move forward.
So in this respect, I believe that in addition to the proposals and the implementation of the June agreements on which the Commission has begun to make proposals, several effective paths for progress were discussed today and must now lead to finalization, which is the responsibility of the ministers and the Commission.
Finally, at noon we talked about Brexit. Following an exchange, a presentation by Theresa May yesterday evening, the 27 of us, in the presence of M. Barnier, discussed the issue. I want here to reaffirm the high quality of the work led by Michel Barnier and say again that I’m particularly committed to the approach we’ve adopted from the outset, i.e. an organization of 27 members, with a single negotiator. And I’d like this approach to be maintained to the end.
We’ve got to be clear, straightforward and calm on this issue because there’s a great deal of nervousness; clear and straightforward in saying that the British government proposed a number of steps forward in the summer in its Chequers plan. I had the opportunity of discussing them at length with the British Prime Minister at the beginning of August. It’s a good thing and a courageous initiative from the Prime Minister, which I want to welcome here. But I also want to say very clearly – and there was a consensus on this at noon today – that the proposals put forward as they are today are unacceptable, especially on the economic front, and, as it is, the Chequers plan can’t be a take-it-or-leave-it plan.
We’re duty-bound to defend the single market and its coherence, and we reaffirmed our determination not to yield an inch on this point. It’s in our short-term, medium- and long-term interests. It’s a vital, political, economic interest for the European Union. Vital, because it’s what makes it function coherently every day; political, because it’s what makes us credible when we trade with other powers.
So we’ve now got to use the next few weeks to make progress, with due regard for our fundamental interests: the integrity of the single market, the strength of the European project and Ireland’s unity. In this respect, we’ve reached the moment of truth today, and we can’t wait any longer given the deadlines familiar to everyone, so I hope we can have a discussion in October about new British proposals which will allow us to resolve these issues and particularly the withdrawal agreement and the Irish backstop.
A year ago to the day, I delivered a speech about Europe at the Sorbonne. Needless to say, the situation is tough, but it’s precisely because Europe is in danger and receiving knocks from some that we’ve got to be bold and commit ourselves tirelessly and that everything must be radically reformed. For the past year, there’s been genuine, significant progress on defence, on the European digital sector – we saw this again last week with a victory that no one thought possible a few months ago on copyright –, on social protection with the posted workers reform, on the economy and growth with a historic Franco-German agreement for the Euro Area budget, on security – I was talking just now about terrorist content, but also the European civil protection force, to tackle natural disasters –, and on education and culture, with the launch this autumn of the first European universities.
Many proposals France made a year ago are being implemented or have already become a reality, which shows that making proposals, being bold and fighting is possible in Europe, and Europe comes to a halt when proposals are no longer made or there’s no more ambition for it and it gets bogged down in quarrels and allows various people to be seduced by the worst simplistic messages or violence when it forgets what has always driven it, an ambition to exist. This battle will go on. It will also be the crucial issue of the European elections, but it’s not just an election issue, it’s a daily battle and we’ll continue to fight it.