Leaders of the European Union need to step up their support for cities and regions dealing with the large numbers of refugees and migrants and to recognise that European cities and regions contribute to the management of migration beyond the EU's borders, the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 21 June told a high-level conference on migration hosted by Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament.
President Markku Markkula told a full hemicycle in the European Parliament in Brussels, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, that greater recognition was needed for the solidarity and responsibility shown by many mayors and regional leaders in managing crises, integrating migrants and fighting radicalisation.
"The EU must offer answers to our mayors and regional leaders, both within member states and at their borders. This requires an increased degree of flexibility from the EU when deploying financial assistance and ensuring support for administrative capacity," President Markkula said. "Many local and regional authorities represented in the CoR are directly exposed to the impact of mass migration, from the Mayor of Catania in Italy to the Governor of Macedonia region in Greece. We therefore fully support the European Parliament's approach for an improved inter-institutional cooperation."
The CoR President also cited the successes of two years of outreach by the CoR to Libyan mayors as evidence that European cities and regions can help Libyan mayors to create better socio-economic conditions in their communities and in their struggle to eradicate smuggling along migrant routes. The audience included the prime minister of the Government on National Accord of Libya, Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj.
"Almost 90% of migrants taking the Central Mediterranean route pass by Libya, where they are being exposed to smugglers and criminal activities," President Markkula continued. "Our assembly has initiated a project in partnership with Libyan mayors and the European Commission to strengthen mayors' capacity-building in partnership with European partners: regions and cities as diverse as Flanders, Murcia, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Nicosia, Mechelen, Antwerp and Vila Real de Santo António, are today helping Libyan colleagues by creating partnerships to help them in improving deliver public services to citizens."
The European Parliament's conference was attended by a range of CoR members, including: Georgios Kaminis (EL/PES), mayor of Athens; Vincenzo Bianco (IT/PES), mayor of the Sicilian port city of Catania and the CoR's rapporteur on asylum; Peter Bossman (SI/PES), mayor of Piran and CoR rapporteur on migration agreements with non-EU states; Olgierd Geblewicz (PL/EPP), governor of the West Pomerania region and rapporteuer on legal migration; Hans Janssen (NL/EPP), mayor of Oisterwijk and rapporteur on the protection of refugees in their areas of origin and migration on the central Mediterranean route; Bart Somers (BE/ALDE), mayor of Mechelen, winner of the World Mayors Prize 2016, and rapporteur on radicalisation; Karl Vanlouwe (BE/European Alliance), member of the Flemish parliament and rapporteur on integration; Barbara Duden (DE/PES) from Hamburg; Anna Magyar (HU/EPP) from Csongrád Megye; and Dimitrios Kalogeropoulos (EL/EPP) from Palaio Faliro.
The European Parliament's conference was also attended by the sspeaker of the parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Moustapha Cissé Lô. Members of the CoR will on 10-11 July discuss with African regions and cities about how they can collaborate to manage migration and support economic development, as part of the Regions and Cities for Development / Assises de la coopération décentralisée event co-organised by the CoR and the European Commission.