General Market

Speech at the European Council by Martin Schulz President of the European Parliament




Martin Schulz Martin Schulz

Ladies and gentlemen,
these past years we have been rushing from crisis summit to crisis summit: from the financial crisis, on to youth unemployment, the Euro, the Ukraine conflict, then one Greek summit followed the other, since summer we have been almost exclusively focussing on refugees, which maybe will soon be displaced by meetings on counter-terrorism. Once a new subject, a new crisis rises on the horizon, we lose sight of other problems we considered pressing only a few moments before. And with them we also give up our long-term goals, which we set ourselves to solve existential issues and to set the scene for a good future. In place of long-term, anticipatory action, short-term, single-topic actions are chosen. In too many policy fields, there is a tendency to fail to address issues for the long-run and to fully deliver on what was promised. This has to change. We finally have to return to long-term sustainable policies which address the common interest. Therefore, I welcome that on this European Council agenda we find many of the most pressing issues which we must address in parallel: migration, counter terrorism, the economic and monetary union, the climate and energy policy, the Ukraine conflict and the British referendum. Now, we are called upon to deliver on these issues.

Ukraine Summit

Ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday evening President Tusk, President Juncker and I met with President Poroshenko to discuss the  situation in Eastern Ukraine. Without doubt it’s a positive development that the ceasefire agreement reached in Minsk in February of this year is being largely respected. But many other points of the Minsk agreement are still awaiting implementation. Among them the agreed decentralisation reform and local elections in Donbas but also, and most importantly, the withdrawal of weaponry and troops, and the returning of the external border to Ukraine’s control. Only when these conditions are fully met can we expect a lasting peace in Eastern Ukraine.

To guarantee a lasting peace it is equally important to support Ukraine  in stabilising its economy, ensuring its energy independence and pushing forward the necessary judicial and anti-corruption reforms. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement will finally come into force this January and we must ensure its successful implementation. Visa liberalisation should also be prioritised for Ukraine and Georgia and we expect a positive opinion of the European Commission in the nearest future.  I encourage the Member States to endorse this decision..

Let me add one point.  We must certainly explore ways to involve Russia constructively in the international efforts to settle the Syrian conflict. But we must beware of issue-linkage. Syria and Ukraine are not connected. No concessions or trade-offs must be made between the two. The sectorial sanctions are clearly linked to the Minsk agreements and have been imposed on Russia because of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and the on-going conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The sanctions can only be reviewed under one condition: if substantial progress is made and the Minsk agreements are fulfilled. It is crucial that as Europeans we stand united on this issue. Because united we are strong.


As the refugee and migration crisis enters winter we must ask ourselves, does Europe have a plan, or are we improvising day by day?

The European Parliament believes that with a clear plan and strong political will this crisis can be managed. Unfortunately, for the moment, both seem to be lacking.

Take relocation: the decision to relocate 120 000 refugees was approved with great speed and then what? According to the Commission, only 14 Member States have made available 3346 places, and less than 200 persons have actually been relocated. This figure is shameful and I call on all member states to shoulder their responsibility. The Parliament is pursuing its work on the permanent relocation mechanism and the EU list of safe countries of origin, both rightly proposed by the Commission.

Take the so-called “hotspots”: in October, Frontex and the European Asylum Support office called for national experts but we have only reached about half the number requested. Hotspots will only be considered a functional concept by the European Parliament when they are able to deliver a full service, from first entry to final decision, backed up by EU agencies and in conformity with common rules. Anything else can at best be described as “work in progress” which needs urgent completion. The lack of progress on the ground is very frustrating and it’s unacceptable that we are having the same discussion today as we were having in October. I expect the Commission to be frank in informing us about where the bottlenecks are and we need above all to find pragmatic solutions where help is needed.

It is therefore a welcome first step that Greece on 3 December activated the EU civil protection mechanism, agreed to a Frontex operation at the border with FYROM where the situation is particularly severe, and triggered the Rapid Border Intervention Team mechanism. The European Parliament also welcomes the launch last Monday by the Commission and UNHCR of a scheme to provide 20.000 additional reception places for asylum seekers and relocation candidates in Greece through subsidies for housing in the private sector.

On several occasions I have in the name of the European Parliament pleaded with you to fulfil your funding pledges to funds set up to help refugees. At the EU Turkey Summit you decided to set up a three billion Euro Refugee Facility for Turkey to improve the living conditions of more than two million Syrian refugees in Turkey. The European Parliament has stepped up to the plate and thanks to the outcome of the 2016 budget conciliation 500 million Euros can be made available from the EU budget.  And now we hear that at the request of the Member States it may be even 1billion for EU budget.  I call on member states to provide all necessary information requested by the Commission in the next four days and fully involve the European Parliament in this budgetary procedure to assure proper democratic accountability and control. With GNI key contributions it would be actually the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework that would be the most appropriate solution to be used, ensuring that all prerogatives of both arms of budgetary authority are respected and unity of the budget is safeguarded. But most importantly: make the needed funds available. This step will save lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The refugee and migration crisis risks putting into question the integrity of the Schengen Area. Therefore, the European Parliament will examine carefully every temporary closure of internal borders notified by Member States. As you know the EU has set itself strict rules for when this is possible and necessary, and I urge the Commission to be particularly vigilant that the requests are properly consulted in advance and well-justified.

We welcome the Commission’s proposal last Tuesday on a European border and coastguard. In times of great pressure at the external borders, time is precious, and we are reminded daily how burdensome, uncertain and time-consuming the current procedures are. Frontex, together with corresponding national authorities, is to become a genuine European Border and Coast Guard with a broad mandate, with its own human resources and equipment pool, ensuring that rules, including safeguards concerning fundamental rights, but also rules on returns, are applied uniformly along our 44000 km of external sea and 9000 km of external land borders.

The Parliament will give its full attention to this necessary and major upgrade. Enjoying a Europe free of internal borders and sharing the responsibility for the management of our external borders are two sides of the same coin.

Finally I should add that Parliament is working on its own comprehensive, long-term, approach to migration policy and our co-rapporteurs Kyenge and Metsola will present their first proposals on 18 January.


Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to strongly welcome the political agreement between Parliament and Council this week on the Data Protection Package.  As you know, this represents  years of painstaking work by the co-legislators to upgrade our framework which predates the Internet age. Our legislation should reflect our values, our vision for society, and I’m glad to say that this week’s agreement, despite the concessions made by Parliament, puts the EU on track to become the gold standard for data privacy and security. May I strongly insist that you exercise all possible influence so that the Council now provides the Parliament with its first reading position on the Data Protection Package in January as a matter of absolute priority. Any delay would not be acceptable.  
Organised crime and terrorists are adept at exploiting our area without internal border controls. And therefore law enforcement and intelligence cannot afford to have any blindspots. That is why the political agreement to upgrade Europol is particularly timely. And I would like to highlight just two important developments: first, the creation of an Internet Referral Unit to better address cyber crime and the activities and propaganda of violent extremists on the Internet; second, the creation of the Joint Parliamentary Control Group, consisting of the European Parliament and all the national parliaments, to oversee Europol’s activities.

With the political agreement of the 2nd December on an EU-Passenger Name Records system, approved in the EP at committee level on 10th December by a large majority, the Parliament and Council have ensured that a single set of EU standards and strong safeguards will apply to the processing and storage of PNR data. The Parliament committed last February to finalising this file by the end of year, and I’m glad to report that this has been achieved and that Parliament has delivered.

Of course, we await the final validation of these four key political agreements, but I would already like to pay tribute to the tenacity of the Luxembourg Presidency and the Commission, and the unfailing commitment of our rapporteurs Albrecht, Lauristin, Diaz de Mera and Kirkhope.

And on the key issue of preventing radicalisation and recruitment to terrorist organisations, Parliament adopted its position on 25th November by a large majority with many concrete policy proposals which we expect to see put into action – from tackling radicalisation online and in prisons, to promoting education and social inclusion, preventing departure and return, and  stepping up exchange of information.

But I think we all realise that Europe still has a very long way to go yet in fighting against serious and organised crime and terrorism.

It is easy to blame Europe or Schengen for failures in security in our Member States, and wave the illusion that retreating behind national borders somehow immunises against – often home-grown – terrorists.

If we retreat behind recriminations and divisions,
If we curtail our own freedoms in a disproportionate way,
If we fail to stand by our common values and rights,
If we let ourselves be sucked into the spiral of violence and stigmatisation,
then the terrorists win.

The European Parliament is committed to enhancing Europe’s security whilst respecting fundamental rights and it is with this resolve that we welcome the accelerated delivery by the Commission of its Agenda on Security, with proposals to review firearms legislation and to ensure terrorism-related acts, including all possible elements  are commonly defined and criminalised, be it funding, travelling, training or facilitation.
We will also shortly examine the Commission’s proposal on controls at the external borders.

And we need to look at every possibility to fight against the financing of terrorism: tracing financial operations, freezing assets and fighting against trafficking in cultural goods.
But let’s be clear, my colleagues and I – right across the political spectrum  – are very concerned that existing tools at EU level, both in the areas of migration management and security policy, are not being properly used and information is not being properly exchanged between all players. Take the Schengen Information System II, Europol’s focal point “Travellers”, EURODAC, ECRIS – in all these cases we have diagnosed a lack of interoperability or exchange between Member States and EU agencies. I urge you: provide the political impetus to make this happen.

One thing is clear: if we want to preserve our freedom of movement, then we must act fast and we must act decisively.  

Economic and Monetary Union

Ladies and gentlemen,
Three years ago, the European Council endorsed a roadmap towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union. The completion of the Banking Union was set as a priority. The aim was to guarantee a way out of the vicious circle between banks’ debts and sovereign debt while at the same time ensuring financial stability in the participating Member States. Ailing banks should no longer be able to drag down other banks, enmesh countries in economic difficulties and leave the taxpayers to face the consequences.

The Five Presidents’ Report also sets the completion of the Banking Union as a priority, to be achieved during Stage 1.

Today, the first pillar of the Banking Union, namely the Single Supervisory Mechanism is up and running and the second pillar, the Single Resolution Mechanism, will be operational as of 1st January 2016. We should all welcome this great achievement. Still, the process is not over: we need to work on setting up the third pillar, the European Deposit Insurance Scheme.
As long as the third and last pillar is not in place we are in danger of having a bank go through a resolution procedure where the costs linked to the resolution will be borne by the Single European Resolution Fund while the protection of private deposits will be financed by individual national deposit guarantee schemes. This becomes very complicated!

Apart from that, this means that there is a possibility that depositors from different Member States may not benefit from the same level of protection, when they are all equally non-responsible of the trouble the bank gets into. This, from an ethical point of view, is very difficult to explain.

I am well aware that the issue is controversial in some Member States. As I am aware that an important number of Member States still need to do their homework and transpose the Bank Recovery and Resolution and the Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directives. However, this should not stop us from working on finding compromises and solutions. Actually it should be the opposite: because the issue is sensitive, we should properly discuss it.

I therefore call on heads of government to abide by their own decisions. We cannot afford to stop halfway. A Banking Union must either be created properly or not created at all. An incomplete Banking Union, lacking the third pillar, would be highly dysfunctional and would leave taxpayers vulnerable. We have already achieved considerable progress, achieving necessary goals which seemed unthinkable just a short while ago. Let’s take the extra steps to get us to a real banking union. Let’s complete what we set out to do.

Besides the completion of the Banking Union, the Five Presidents’ Report foresees a series of steps that can be taken in the short term within the existing legal framework. The Commission’s package on Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union adopted on the 21st October is meant to launch the implementation of some of these measures. The European Parliament welcomed the package as a step in the right direction. However, we noted with regret that although strengthening democratic accountability is one of the key objectives of the 5 Presidents’ Report, the package does not leave enough room for true parliamentary oversight.  The timing of the revamped European Semester, in particular, is a matter of concern.

Further efforts will be necessary to address the current shortcomings of the institutional framework of the euro area.  I trust the Commission to do the necessary reflections on the further follow-up to the Five Presidents’ Report. Finally I call on the Commission to consult in due time the European Parliament in the preparation of the White Paper on the transition between Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the reforms of the EMU.

The European Parliament stands ready to play its part in the process in order to enhance democratic accountability and greater ownership over economic governance issues. In this respect, we welcomed President Dijsselbloem’s presence in plenary last Tuesday to discuss the euro area recommendations. This provided an opportunity for a debate at EU level on issues that are too often seen as complex and technocratic but that will actually in the end affect the citizens. And this increased accountability of the President of the Eurogroup was all the more welcome at a moment when the Commission proposes that he or she becomes the representative of the euro area in the IMF.

On the scrutiny of macro-economic adjustment programmes too, the European Parliament wants to play its role. The matter was discussed at the Conference of Presidents on the 2nd December, where political groups unanimously tasked the committee on economic and monetary affairs to reflect on the appropriate modalities for ensuring democratic control over the implementation of the programmes. The aim of the European Parliament is not to take part in the institutions’ decision making process but to strengthen the various actors’ accountability at EU level and provide for the possibility of holding public debates.

Be it on the European Semester, or on the scrutiny of macro-economic adjustment programmes, it is now clear that the European Parliament is the place where the debate on decisions taken at EU level is taking place.

Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy

This weekend something happened, which many people thought was impossible: an ambitious climate agreement was reached in Paris, a truly global agreement, to which all countries will participate. Now, it is universally recognized that we must stay well below the 2 °C temperature increase, and that we should pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. We have set ourselves the goal to be an emissions neutral planet in the second half of this century. To not emit more greenhouse gas than the world can absorb. I would like to thank in particular our negotiators, Commissioner Cañete, Luxembourg’s Minister for the Environment Ms Dieschbourg and the European Union negotiating team. And also your government, President Hollande, for hosting and chairing the conference, and always acting as an honest broker, thereby creating the trust that was needed to get the whole world behind this agreement.

In Paris, we were united as the European Union. We need to stay united when discussing the implementation of the Paris agreement and it is important that the European Council gives a strong and positive signal to the rest of the world. When doing so, the Parliament will certainly be at you side.  

To reach the goals laid down in the Paris agreement we will have to change the ways we use and produce energy. The Energy Union will be key in delivering the EU’s long term commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Crucial will be the reform of the European Emissions Trading System and the proposal for the Effort-Sharing Decision.

Boosting energy efficiency and renewable energy will be the two major means of achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions while at the same time ensuring energy security and independence.The potential for improving energy efficiency is significant – particularly in buildings – and the benefits are tremendous: Not only does it cut emissions and reduce imports but also help lowering energy bills for households and thus combat energy poverty. At the same time 2 million jobs could be created as a result of energy efficiency measures by 2020.  

We will need an ambitious energy efficiency target of 40 % by 2030 and a clear and stable regulatory framework that creates the right incentives for the necessary investments in energy efficiency. Parliament looks forward to working with the Commission and Council on the revisions of both the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive foreseen to start during the second half of 2016.

Furthermore, renewables play an important role in pursuing Europe’s leadership in a green economy and in developing new future-oriented industries and technologies. EU companies, many of them SMEs, employ 1.2 million people and have a share of 40% of world patents for renewable technologies. For the transition to renewable energy to happen, we need a clear target of at least 30% by 2030 and a stable regulatory framework.  Today I have focused on the climate dimension of the Energy Union, while fully recognising the importance of the other dimensions, such as energy security, the need to have a fully interconnected market,   the need to ensure that European industries that produce turbines, solar panels, high-quality steel and construction materials in particular, can take full advantage of the energy transition, and the need to have an integrated approach regarding research and innovation challenges. Now, practical steps have to follow in the wake of this historic agreement, which will make safer the future of our planet, for the current and next generations

United Kingdom

Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to share the views of the European Parliament with you on the settlement Prime Minister Cameron is seeking for the UK within the EU. First of all, I sincerely believe that together we can all come to a suitable agreement which takes into account the sensitivities of all sides and also the legal constraints.

To achieve a good deal it is crucial to understand that all of the requests present some form of difficulty. Some are very difficult, others more workable, but all need to be addressed with care. Take the request for cutting red tape. This seems completely harmless. Of course we are all in favour! But if we are in favour of helping businesses then often less red tape actually comes through unifying our rules rather than 28 different laws. We must also ensure that the end product is better laws not deregulation. The devil often therefore lies in the detail.

The process must also avoid unduly advantaging those who move more slowly along the road of EU integration, especially regarding the areas that are the building blocks of the EU such as the single market. We all want to maintain the integrity of the single market and to avoid any discrimination. It is therefore difficult for me to understand how one can call for the protection of the single market while at the same time asking for special treatment. Sharing a true single market necessarily means sharing common rules and objectives.

We must altogether also avoid chasing badly designed solutions to a correctly diagnosed problem. National parliaments do indeed need to be more involved and aware of EU decision making but there are other more pertinent ways for achieving this than what is currently being proposed.

Finally, of course, we cannot bring in discrimination based on nationality. It goes without saying that the limitations to in-work benefits being requested will lead to outright discrimination. Abuse, where it exists, should indeed be tackled forcefully. Likewise, any ambiguities or uncertainties in our rules need to be addressed. But introducing discrimination against EU workers does not seem to be the way to achieve this. EU governments have raised their concerns on political and legal grounds.

Throughout the process the European Parliament, through myself among others, will be closely monitoring developments and flagging up concerns which may arise from glossing over certain requests. Obviously, the European Parliament will also be involved if legal modifications may become necessary.

Before I close let me make you all aware of a letter I addressed to the Presidency concerning a proposal the European Parliament adopted on its electoral procedure.  A reform of this procedure is urgently needed, also in the light of the steadily decreasing turnouts.  Parliament has done its part and now call on the Council to endorse the proposal or to open negotiations with the Parliament in view of a swift agreement.

Thank you for your attention.

For further information:

Giacomo Fassina

Press Officer

+32 498 98 33 10

General Market

Agenda – The Week Ahead 14 – 20 December 2015

Sakharov Prize. Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger and author of the website Free Saudi Liberals is this year’s laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Mr Badawi has been detained since 2012 on the charge of breaking Saudi technology laws and insulting religious figures. Mr Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, will receive the prize on his behalf at a ceremony in Strasbourg on Wednesday at noon and hold a joint press conference with President Schulz immediately after the ceremony, at 12.30. A seminar for journalists with former Sakharov laureates takes place the same day at 9.00.


External border controls. Proposals to strengthen the EU border agency Frontex and set up a European border and coast guard will be presented by Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and debated by MEPs on Tuesday afternoon. Parliament asked in a 2013 resolution that “the Schengen external borders should in the future be guarded with the support of European border guards”.


COP21. The outcome of the international climate talks in Paris will be reviewed by MEPs, the Council Presidency and Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete on Tuesday afternoon. A delegation of 15 MEPs from the Environment and Industry committees attended the conference during its final week.

Pre-summit debate. With a view to the 17-18 December European summit, MEPs will debate the fight against terrorism and the implementation of EU responses to migration challenges on Wednesday at 09.00, with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council. Economic and Monetary Union, strengthening the single market and UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s reform demands ahead of the UK’s EU membership referendum will also be on the agenda.


Eurozone and EMU. Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem will take part in a plenary debate for the first time, on Tuesday morning, when he joins MEPs to discuss the EU’s economic and social priorities for 2016, as set out by the Commission in the Annual Growth Survey, and specific recommendations for the euro area as a whole, all presented by the Commission on 26 November.

Corporate taxes. Parliament will debate and approve its recommendations for legislation to improve corporate tax transparency, coordination and EU-wide tax policy convergence. If the Commission does not act on these recommendations, then it must explain why. (debate Tuesday, vote Wednesday). Also the new special committee set up for another six months to investigate member states’ tax-rulings will hold its constitutive meeting on Thursday.

Energy policy. Parliament’s vision for a resilient EU energy union and forward-looking climate change policy, as well as interconnecting electricity supplies across the EU, will be set out in non-legislative resolutions to be debated on Monday evening and voted on Tuesday.

Arms export controls. MEPs will call on member states to apply the EU’s eight-point code on arms exports more strictly, pointing to the changed security environment in the EU’s neighbourhood and stressing that these trade flows are not in the EU’s security interests. In 2013, EU member states exported arms worth a total of €26.7 billion to third countries. (Debate Wednesday, vote Thursday)


President’s diary. Parliament’s President Martin Schulz will meet Council and Commission presidents Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday at 19.00. With a view to the EU summit, he will hold a press conference with Mr Juncker on Thursday at 10.00 in the Commission’s premises. Mr Schulz will address the European Council at 16.00, followed by a press conference.

Pre-session press briefing. The EP Press Service will hold a press briefing at 16.30 on Monday. (EP Press conference room, Strasbourg)

EP Press Service contact during the weekend


Tel.: 32 498 98 39 83

General Information

Debates – Wednesday, 9 September 2015 – Strasbourg – Provisional edition

  Jean-Claude Juncker, Präsident der Kommission . Sehr verehrter Herr Präsident! Herr Ratspräsident! Meine sehr verehrten Damen und Herren Abgeordneten! Es ist mir eine angenehme Pflicht und nicht nur eine Pflicht, sondern auch ein Vergnügen, als Präsident der Europäischen Kommission, zum ersten Mal in meinem kurzen Leben, eine Rede zur Lage der Europäischen Union hier in diesem Hohen Hause vorzutragen! Ich habe als Luxemburgischer Premierminister sehr oft – ich glaube zwanzig Mal – eine Rede zur Lage der Nation vorgetragen. Man hat mir nach der Rede immer bedeutet, dass sie gut war, im Tonfall, in der Rhetorik – inhaltlich gingen die Meinungen auseinander – aber dass sie zu lang war, und genau dies wird mir heute auch in diesem Hause passieren.

Ich habe die Rede nicht unter normalen Umständen vorbereiten können, aus Gründen, die einige von Ihnen erahnen können. Aber ich werde mir alle Mühe geben, diese Rede zu einem guten Ende zu bringen. Diese Rede findet im Rahmen der Rahmenvereinbarungen statt, die die Beziehungen zwischen dem Europäischen Parlament und der Europäischen Kommission festlegen. In diesem Regelwerk heißt es, dass der Präsident der Europäischen Kommission in der ersten Septemberhälfte dem Parlament Rede und Antwort stehen muss zu dem, was im vergangenen Jahr vollbracht wurde, erledigt wurde, abgearbeitet wurde und zu dem, was in den nächsten Monaten ins Haus, also auch in Ihr Haus steht. Es geht um die Prioritäten für die zukünftigen Arbeiten der Europäischen Kommission und ergo auch teilweise der Europäischen Union.

Ich habe zu diesem Zweck dem Präsidenten des Europäischen Parlaments, Martin Schulz, und dem Luxemburgischen Premierminister, als Vorsitzenden der Ratspräsidentschaft, die Prioritäten der Europäischen Kommission in schriftlicher Form zukommen lassen, und ich habe diesen Brief auch Ihrem Hause zugestellt und diesen Brief begleiten lassen von einer Darstellung der Abarbeitung der zehn Prioritäten, die der Arbeit der Kommission vorstehen. Ich werde nicht alle diese Fragen heute hier behandeln. Ich verweise Sie – das ist zwar unhöflich, aber trotzdem notwendig – auf die schriftlichen Angaben, die die Kommission unter meiner Unterschrift und derjenigen des ersten Vizepräsidenten Frans Timmermans, dem Präsidenten und dem Ratsvorsitz hat zukommen lassen.

Und ich verweise Sie auch auf die begleitenden Dokumente, die diesen Briefwechsel verständlicher zu machen versuchen. Ich bin der erste Präsident der Europäischen Kommission, der nicht auf Umwegen, sondern auf direktem Weg, via Wahl und via zustimmendes Votum des Europäischen Parlaments ins Amt gekommen ist. Ich habe von Anfang an, auch bei meiner Bewerbungsrede hier im Europäischen Parlament am 14. Juni vergangenen Jahres, deutlich gemacht, dass die Kommission, der ich die Ehre habe vorzusitzen, eine politischere Kommission sein wird und ergo der Präsident dieser Europäischen Kommission aufgrund des prozeduralen demokratischeren Ablaufs seiner Ernennung auch ein politischer Präsident sein wird. Wenn ich sage politisch, dann meine ich ausdrücklich politisch im noblen Sinne des Wortes!

Nous sommes des hommes politiques. Nous ne sommes pas des politiciens. Je n’aime pas cette expression française qui parle de politiciens. Nous sommes, vous et nous, vous et moi, des hommes politiques.

Wenn ich sage politisch, dann heißt das nicht, dass wir alles politisieren möchten. Aber ich möchte damit zum Ausdruck bringen, dass ich der strikten Auffassung bin, dass jetzt nicht die Zeit des Business as usual ist.


Deshalb würde ich Sie sehr herzlich bitten, nicht darauf zu achten, wie oft ich das Wort „sozial“ in den Mund nehme – mein Herz ist voll von sozial –, nicht darauf zu achten, wie oft ich „nachhaltig“ sage, nicht darauf zu achten, wie oft ich „ökonomisch“, „finanziell“, „budgetpolitisch“ sage. Dies ist nicht die Stunde derartiger sehr oft hohler Reden. Dies ist die Stunde der Ehrlichkeit. Die Zeit für mehr Ehrlichkeit in Europa ist gekommen, und deshalb ist dies eine Rede über die großen offenen gewaltigen Fragen, mit der die Europäische Union konfrontiert ist. Und darauf werde ich mich jetzt konzentrieren.

Unsere Europäische Union – obwohl ich nicht zu Pessimismus tendiere – befindet sich in keinem guten Zustand. Es macht keinen Sinn, dass der Kommissionspräsident vor den Vertretern der europäischen Demokratie, also den Vertretern der Völker Europas, hier in Schönmalerei macht. Die Europäische Union ist nicht in einem guten Zustand. Es fehlt an Europa in dieser Europäischen Union, und es fehlt an Union in dieser Europäischen Union.


Das müssen wir ändern. Und wir müssen das jetzt ändern, in gemeinsamer Kraftanstrengung. Dies gebietet das Mandat, das Sie von den europäischen Wählern erhalten haben, das gebietet auch der Mandatsauftrag, den ich von diesem Hohen Haus erhalten habe.

(Zurufe von der EFDD.)

I don’t know why you are becoming nervous when you are speaking about the European Union.

(Zurufe von der EFDD.)

You can interrupt me from time to time. I will not at each time respond to what you are saying, because what you are saying is worthless.

(Starker Beifall)

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, whatever work programmes or legislative agendas say, the first priority today is, and must be, addressing the refugee crisis.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 500 000 people have made their way to Europe. The vast majority of them are fleeing from Syria, the terror of Islamic State in Libya or dictatorship in Eritrea. The most affected Member States are Greece, with over 200 000 refugees, Hungary, with more or less 150 000, and Italy, with 120 000.

The numbers are impressive. For some they are frightening. But now is not the time to take fright. It is time for bold, determined and concerted action by the European Union, by its Member States and by its institutions.

First of all, before other considerations, it is a matter of humanity and of human dignity. And for Europe it is also a matter of historical fairness.


We are all Europeans here –

(A UKIP Member: ‘No!’)

OK, I note that you think that you are not Europeans, well said, but not well done.

This is not a time to take fright. It is a time of humanity and of human dignity. We Europeans – all of us, I thought before the interruption – should remember well that Europe is a continent where nearly everyone has at one time been a refugee. Our common history is marked by millions of Europeans fleeing from religious or political persecution, from war, dictatorship, or oppression: Huguenots fleeing from France in the 17th century; Jews, Sinti, Roma and many others fleeing from Germany during the Nazi horror of the 1930s and 1940s; Spanish republicans fleeing to refugee camps in southern France at the end of the 1930s after their defeat in the Civil War; Hungarian revolutionaries fleeing to Austria and elsewhere – everywhere in Europe – after their uprising against Communist rule was suppressed by Soviet tanks in 1956; and Czech and Slovak citizens seeking exile in other countries – including mine – after the oppression of the Prague Spring in 1968. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee from their homes after, and during, the Yugoslav wars. That was by the end of the last century – not centuries ago but by the end of the last century – in the last decade of the 20th century.

Have we forgotten that there is a reason there are more McDonalds living in the United States than the entire population of Scotland? That there is a reason the number of O’Neills and Murphys in the U.S. exceeds by far those living in Ireland?

Have we forgotten that 20 million people of Polish ancestry live outside Poland, as a result of political and economic emigration after the many border shifts, forced expulsions and resettlements during Poland’s so often painful history?

Have we really forgotten that after the devastation of the Second World War, 60 million people were refugees in Europe? That, as a result of this terrible European experience, a global protection regime – the 1951 Geneva Convention on the status of refugees – was established to grant refuge to those who jumped the walls in Europe to escape from war and totalitarian oppression?

We Europeans should know, and should never forget, why giving refuge and complying with the fundamental right to asylum is so important. The fundamental right to asylum is one of the most important international and European values. We should not forget that.


I have said in this House and elsewhere in the past that we are too seldom proud of our European heritage and our European project. Yes, in spite of our fragility, of our weaknesses – our self-perceived weaknesses – today it is Europe that is sought worldwide as a place of refuge and exile. It is Europe today that represents a place of hope, a haven of stability in the eyes of women and men in the Middle East and in Africa. This is something – I have to say this here – to be proud of and not something to fear.


Europe today, in spite of many differences amongst the Member States, is by far the wealthiest place and the most stable continent in the world. Those who are criticising Europe – European integration, the European construction, the European Union – have to admit that this is the place of peace and that this is the place of stability and we should be proud of this. We have the means to help those fleeing from war, terror and oppression.

I know that many now will want to say that this is all very well, but Europe cannot take everybody. It is true that Europe cannot house all the misery of the world. But let us be honest and put things into perspective. There are certainly a large and unprecedented number of refugees coming to Europe at the moment. However, they still represent just 0.11% of the total European Union population. In Lebanon, by comparison, refugees represent 25% of the population in a country which has only one fifth of the wealth we enjoy in the European Union. Who are we that we never make this kind of comparison? Who are we?


Let us be clear and honest with our citizens, who are often worried: as long as there is war in Syria and terror in Libya, the refugee crisis will not simply go away. We can build walls, we can build fences, but imagine – without being demagogic – imagine for a second if it were you, your child in your arms, the world you knew torn apart around you, there is no price you would not pay, there is no wall you would not climb, no sea you would not sail, no border you would not cross if it is a war of barbarism and the so-called Islamic State that you are fleeing. We are fighting against Islamic State. Why are we not ready to accept those who are fleeing Islamic State? We have to accept these people on European territory.


It is high time to act to manage the refugee crisis because there is no alternative to this. There has been a lot of finger pointing in the past weeks. Member States have accused each other of not doing enough or doing the wrong thing and, more often than not, fingers have been pointed from national capitals towards Brussels. Brussels is always accused if Member States are failing. If Member States are not doing their job, Brussels, the Commission, the European Parliament, are accused of not doing their job.


We could all – not all, but the majority of this House, myself and my Commission – be angry about this blame game. But I wonder who that would serve. Being angry does not help anyone. Blaming others does not help the refugees and the migrants, and the attempt to blame others is often just a sign that politicians, policy-makers, sometimes lawmakers, are overwhelmed by unexpected events.

Instead, we should rather recall what has been agreed that can help in the current situation. It is time to look at what is on the table and move swiftly forward. We are not starting anew. Since the early years of this century, the Commission – not mine, the Commission of José Manual Barroso – has persistently tabled legislation after legislation to build a common European asylum system, and Parliament and the Council have enacted this legislation, piece by piece. The last piece of legislation entered into force only in July 2015, two months ago.

Across Europe we now have common standards for the way we receive asylum seekers, in respect of their dignity, for the way we process their asylum applications, and we have common criteria which our independent justice systems use to determine whether someone is entitled to international protection. But these standards need to be implemented entirely and respected everywhere in Europe in practice. This is clearly not the case.

Before the summer – not after the summer, but before the summer – the Commission started the first series of 32 infringement proceedings to remind Member States of what they had previously agreed to do. That is a matter of credibility. We are legislating and we are not implementing. It is a matter of credibility that Member States implement and respect commonly agreed international and European laws.


A second series of infringement proceedings will follow in the days to come. Common asylum standards are important but they are not enough to cope with the current refugee crisis. The Commission, Parliament and the Council said in the spring that we need a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration. We proposed this as a Commission in May, and it would be unfair to say that nothing has happened since then.

We have tripled our presence at sea. 122 000 lives have been saved since then. Every life lost is one too many, but many more have been rescued that would have been lost otherwise – an increase of 250%. We should be proud of that performance. Twenty-nine Member States and Schengen-associated countries are participating in the joint operations coordinated by Frontex in Italy, Greece and Hungary: 102 guest officers from 20 countries; 31 ships; three helicopters; four fixed-wing aircraft; eight patrol cars, six thermos-vision vehicles and four transport vehicles. This is a first measure of European solidarity in action, even though more will have to be done.

We have redoubled our efforts to tackle smugglers and dismantle human trafficker groups. Cheap ships are now harder to come by, leading to less people putting their lives in peril in unseaworthy boats. As a result, the Central Mediterranean route has stabilised at around 115 000 arriving during the month of August, the same as last year. We now need to achieve a similar stabilisation of the Balkan route, which has clearly been neglected by all policymakers.

The European Union is also the number one donor in the global efforts to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis. Around EUR 4 billion have been mobilised by the Commission – that means by Parliament too – and Member States in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance to Syrians in their country and to refugees and their host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. Indeed, just today we launched two new projects to provide schooling and food security to 240 000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and, by the way, I would like to applaud the efforts of Jordan, of Turkey and of Lebanon.


These countries, far poorer than we are, are making efforts we should applaud and recognise in moral and in financial terms. We have collectively committed to resettling over 22 000 people from outside Europe over the next year, showing solidarity with our neighbours. Of course, this remains very modest – too modest – by comparison to the Herculean efforts undertaken by Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon who are hosting over four million Syrian refugees, but I am encouraged that some Member States are now showing their willingness to significantly step up our European resettlement efforts. This will allow us very soon to come forward with a structured system to pool European resettlement efforts more systematically. It has to be done and it will be done.

Where Europe has clearly under-delivered is on common solidarity with regard to the refugees who have arrived on our territory. To me, it is clear that the Member States where most refugees first arrive – at the moment, these are Italy, Greece and Hungary – cannot be left alone to cope with this enormous challenge.


This is why the Commission already proposed an emergency mechanism in May – not now, back in May – to relocate initially 40 000 people seeking international protection from Italy and Greece. This is why today we are proposing a second emergency mechanism to relocate a further 120 000 people from Italy, Greece and Hungary. This has to be done in a compulsory way.


I call on Member States to adopt the Commission proposals on the emergency relocation of altogether 160 000 refugees at the Council of Interior Ministers on 14 September. We are not talking about 40 000, not 120 000, we are talking about 160 000. That is the number Europeans have to take in charge and have to take in their arms, and I really hope that this time everyone will be on board. No poems, no rhetoric, action is what is needed for the time being.


What is happening to human beings – we are talking human beings, we are not talking about numbers – coming from Syria and Libya today could easily be the case in Ukraine tomorrow. Are we making selections? Are we distinguishing between Christians, Jews, Muslims? This continent has had a bad experience of drawing distinctions on the basis of religious criteria. There is no religion, no belief, no philosophy when it comes to refugees and to those we let in.


Winter is approaching. Do we really want to have families sleeping in railway stations in Budapest and elsewhere, in cold tents during the night, or on shores on Kos? We are in charge of the winter period for those who have to flee their countries for the reasons I have mentioned.

Of course, relocation alone will not solve the issue. It is true that we also need to separate better those who are in clear need of international protection and are therefore very likely to apply for asylum successfully, and those who are leaving their country for other reasons which do not fall under the right of asylum. This is why today the Commission is proposing a common EU list of safe countries of origin. This list will enable Member States to fast-track asylum procedures for nationals of countries that are presumed safe to live in. The presumption of safety must, in our view, certainly apply to all countries which the European Council unanimously decided meet the basic Copenhagen criteria for EU membership – notably as regards democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights. It should also apply to other potential candidate countries in the Western Balkans, in view of their progress made towards candidate status.

I am aware that the list of safe countries is only a procedural simplification. It cannot take away – and I would act strongly against that – the fundamental right of asylum for asylum seekers coming from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey. But it allows national authorities to focus on those refugees who are much more likely to be granted asylum, notably those from Syria. And this focus is very much needed in the current situation. A list of safe countries does not take away asylum rights from those people coming from the countries listed. That is important. We are not neutralising the Geneva Convention. Asylum is a right.


The countries on the list of safe countries have to know that, if they are taken off this list because fundamental rights are not ensured in these countries, they are losing their chance to join the European Union. These two things go together. Safe list, yes, but it is time we prepared a more fundamental change in the way we deal with asylum applications, and notably the Dublin system that requires that asylum applications be dealt with by the first country of entry.

We need more Europe in our asylum policy. We need more Union in our refugee policy. A true European refugee and asylum policy requires solidarity to be permanently anchored in our policy approach and our rules. This is why, today, the Commission is also proposing a permanent relocation mechanism, which will allow us to deal with crisis situations more swiftly in the future. That means more swiftly than in the past.

A common refugee and asylum policy requires further approximation of asylum policies after refugee status is granted. Member States need to take a second look at their support, integration and inclusion policies. The Commission is ready to look into how EU funds can support these efforts, and I am strongly in favour of allowing asylum seekers to work and earn their own money whilst their applications are being processed.


Labour, work, being in a job, is a matter of dignity. Those who are working are finding again the dignity they had before they left and so we should do everything to change our national legislation in order to allow refugees and migrants to work from day one of their arrival in Europe.

A united refugee and asylum policy also requires stronger joint efforts to secure our external borders. Fortunately, in the European Union we have given up border controls between the Member States of the Schengen area to guarantee free movement of people, a unique symbol of European integration and this Schengen system will not be abolished under the mandate of this Commission.


But the other side of the coin to free movement is that we must work together more closely to manage our external borders. This is what our citizens expect. The Commission said it back in May, and I said it during the election campaign, together with Martin, together with Guy and with…

(Suggestions from the Floor)

…no, no, I am not pointing at Mrs Keller; I was just thinking of Mr Tsipras. I am not confusing the two!

José Bové est là? Oui, je l’ai vu tout à l’heure. Salut José!

We need to strengthen Frontex significantly and develop it into a fully operational European Border and Coast Guard system. That is certainly feasible, but it will cost money. The Commission believes that this is money well invested. This is why we will propose ambitious steps towards a European Border and Coast Guard before the end of this year.

A truly united, European migration policy also means that we need to look into opening legal channels for migration. But let us be clear: this will not help in addressing the refugee crisis we are currently in. But if there are more, safe, controlled roads opened to Europe, we can manage migration better and make the illegal work of human traffickers less attractive. Let us not forget that we are an ageing continent in demographic decline. We will be needing talents, talents coming from everywhere in the world. Over time migration must change from a problem to be tackled to a well-managed resource. To this end, the Commission will come forward with a well—designed legal migration package in early 2016. This is highly important. Migration has to be legalised. It is not sufficient to protest against illegal immigration. We have to organise legal ways to Europe.


A lasting solution will only come if we address the root causes, the reasons why we are currently facing this major refugee crisis. Our European foreign policy must be more assertive. We can no longer afford to be ignorant or disunited with regard to war or instability right in our neighbourhood. We have to find a solution. Maybe we are too weak to achieve a solution to the Libyan problem. We have to address the Syrian crisis in a more solution-oriented way. I call for a European diplomatic offensive to address the crises in Syria and Libya. We need a stronger Europe when it comes to foreign policy. I am very glad that Federica Mogherini, our highly determined High Representative – she is High Representative because she is highly determined – has prepared the ground for such an initiative with her diplomatic success in the Iran nuclear talks, and I would like to congratulate Federica on that extraordinary performance.


In order to facilitate the work of our High Representative, Federica, the Commission is today proposing to establish an emergency Trust Fund, starting with EUR 1.8 billion from our common EU financial means to address the crises in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, the Horn of Africa, and the North of Africa. We want to help create lasting stability, for instance by creating employment opportunities in local communities, and thereby addressing the root causes of destabilisation, forced displacement and illegal migration. I expect all EU Member States to pitch in and match our ambitions. We need this emergency Trust Fund in order to prevent future crises.


And we need higher development aid budgets. I do not like the expression development aid – cooperation budgets. It is abnormal that Member States of the European Union are reducing their budgetary efforts when it comes to development aid. They have to be increased.


I do not want to create any illusions that the refugee crisis will be over any time soon. It will not and we have to be aware of that. But pushing back boats from piers, setting fire to refugee camps, or turning a blind eye to poor and helpless people: that is not Europe.


Europe is the baker in Kos who gives away his bread to hungry and weary souls. Europe is the students in Munich and in Passau who bring clothes for the new arrivals at the train station. Europe is those standing at the Munich railway station applauding and welcoming refugees.


The Europe I want to live in is illustrated by those who are helping. The Europe I do not want to live in is a Europe refusing those who are in need.

The crisis is stark and the journey, of course, is still long. I am counting on you, in this House – in the House of European democracy – and on all Member States to show European courage going forward, in line with our common values and history.

Monsieur le Président, Mesdames et Messieurs les Députés, et pour beaucoup d’entre vous, très chers amis, je me rends compte que j’ai déjà dépassé le délai qui est normalement accordé au président de la Commission lorsqu’il parle de l’état de l’Union; mais vu l’état de l’Union, il me faut du temps et je voudrais donc dire quelques mots sur la Grèce, qui m’est très chère.

Le débat que nous avons eu sur les problèmes grecs, qui sont aussi les nôtres, fut un débat difficile parce que je n’avais de cesse d’expliquer au Premier ministre d’alors que, dans la zone euro, il y a dix-neuf démocraties et pas seulement la démocratie hellénique. Les opinions publiques, les opinions parlementaires, les convictions des uns et des autres se reflètent aussi dans l’expression, notamment parlementaire, dans les dix-huit autres démocraties qui forment l’ensemble de la zone euro.

La Commission fut très souvent rudement attaquée par certains États membres pour s’être investie dans la solution, si j’ose dire, puisqu’il n’y a pas encore de solution définitive au problème grec. Je voudrais redire ici ce que je vous ai déjà dit lorsque je me suis présenté pour la première fois devant vous, à savoir qu’il est du devoir de la Commission européenne de veiller à l’intérêt général.

Ne pas s’occuper du cas grec eût été une faiblesse impardonnable, une erreur à répétitions multiples, si la Commission n’avait pas fait ce qu’elle a fait. Nous avons payé, moi d’abord, de notre personne puisque nous avons été attaqués par ceux qui savent toujours mieux que la Commission et le Parlement européen comment il faut faire. Je n’ai pas voulu laisser la recherche d’une solution au problème grec aux seuls soins des bureaucrates bruxellois, comme on dit vulgairement, stupidement et bêtement, bien que leur travail fût extraordinaire même pendant les vacances. Nous nous sommes attelés, Frans Timmermans, le vice-président Dombrovskis, Pierre Moscovici et d’autres à la recherche d’une solution au problème qui nous était posé.

Certaines disent que la Commission et son président n’auraient pas dû dire que le grexit n’était pas une option. En effet, ce n’était pas une option. Il fallait dire sans cesse que le grexit n’était pas une option. Sinon, le grexit serait arrivé.


J’ai dit à M. Tsipras et aux autorités grecques qu’il ne faudrait pas qu’ils considèrent cette phrase comme voulant dire que, de toute façon, ils seraient sauvés. J’ai dit à Alexis Tsipras que je n’étais pas le magicien qui sortirait un lapin blanc de son chapeau si rien n’allait plus. Non! Il savait, il devait savoir et il savait que le grexit était une option, mais pas une option à mentionner publiquement. Donc, sur ce point, nous avons fait ce que nous devions faire et j’ai toujours considéré, vous le savez, que le problème grec n’était pas seulement un problème de consolidation des finances publiques. Ce n’est pas seulement un problème de réformes structurelles, bien que tout cela soit très important, mais c’est aussi un problème qui a trait aux perspectives de croissance de ce pays, que l’Union devrait se réjouir de compter parmi ses États membres.

Je n’ai pas aimé ces commentaires tout au long des derniers mois selon lesquels il fallait que la Grèce sorte de l’euro, sorte de l’Union européenne et soit considérée comme un pays qui ne serait pas sérieux. Les Grecs, surtout les Grecs à faible revenu, sont des gens qui travaillent et qui font tout pour que leur pays puisse progresser. Nous devrions d’ailleurs mieux respecter les efforts de la nation grecque que nous ne l’avons fait jusqu’à présent.


Je voudrais que le programme sur lequel nous nous sommes mis d’accord soit respecté par tout gouvernement grec, passé, présent et futur. Si, cette fois-ci, les règles communément convenues ne sont pas respectées, la réaction de l’Union européenne et de la zone euro sera différente. Cette fois-ci, il faudra qu’on fasse ce qui a été convenu.

Dans ce programme, il y a 35 milliards que la Commission est en train d’organiser pour relancer la croissance économique, et donc sociale, de la République hellénique et je voudrais que cette offre, qui n’est pas un don de générosité, soit acceptée par toutes les parties prenantes en Grèce.

La crise n’est évidemment pas finie avec la solution apportée au cas grec tant qu’il y aura 23 millions d’Européens au chômage dans l’Union européenne et plus de 17 millions dans la zone euro. La crise n’est pas terminée. Elle sera terminée le jour où l’Europe sera revenue au plein emploi.

Parfois, je me demande pourquoi un continent aussi riche que l’Europe prendrait ses distances par rapport à cette règle normale qui devrait être respectée par tous les hommes et toutes les femmes. Les jeunes d’aujourd’hui et les adultes de demain ont droit au plein emploi. Ne nous éloignons pas de cette ambition de faire de l’Europe un continent où le triple A social a toute sa valeur. Il faudra donc tout faire pour que l’Europe puisse revenir au plein emploi. Ce n’est pas impossible si nous le voulons.


Cela présupposera que nous restions fidèles à ce triangle vertueux: la consolidation budgétaire – essentielle, irremplaçable ou alternativlos, comme dirait une autre –, les réformes structurelles et l’investissement. Nous avons proposé à votre Assemblée et au Conseil un plan d’investissement qui porte sur 315 milliards. Ce plan d’investissement est en train d’être appliqué en détail et d’une façon générale. Je crois que tous ceux qui dirigent les pays européens, tous les acteurs économiques, les entreprises, les chefs d’entreprise et les syndicats doivent devenir des combattants, au nom de l’Europe, de la croissance.

Je ne voudrais pas que le plan d’investissement, qui porte malheureusement mon nom –pour des raisons de facilité, on a choisi de dire que le plan d’investissement est le plan Juncker afin qu’un responsable soit désigné en cas d’échec – soit un échec. Je voudrais que tous les acteurs économiques et sociaux et que tous les acteurs politiques s’impliquent dans l’application de ce plan d’investissement, qui est un plan pour l’Europe, pour l’emploi et pour la croissance.


Mais tout cela, Mesdames et Messieurs les Députés, n’est pas suffisant. Il faudra que nous déterminions la route, le chemin, la voie à emprunter et à suivre. C’est la raison pour laquelle nous avons proposé le programme des “cinq présidents” sur l’approfondissement de l’Union économique et monétaire. Je dis “cinq présidents” parce que j’avais choisi, non pas dans un moment de faiblesse autobiographique mais pour des raisons de principe, que le président du Parlement, en son nom personnel, devait être associé à la rédaction de ce rapport. Le Parlement européen, tout de même, est un parlement et faire comme si l’avenir de l’Europe et de l’Union économique et monétaire pouvait se faire sans la participation directe et immédiate du Parlement européen est un leurre. J’avais donc choisi d’associer votre président, Martin Schulz, à nos travaux durant lesquels il a présenté ses points de vue personnels. Je ne les ai pas tous appréciés, mais il a fait aussi entrer dans le débat interinstitutionnel les positions si souvent exprimées par votre parlement et notamment celles exprimées par notre ami Othmar Karas dont le rapport, qui porte à juste titre son nom, explique que la présence du Parlement européen dans le devenir de l’Union économique et monétaire devrait être plus prononcée qu’elle ne l’a été jusqu’à présent.

Oui, il faut à l’Europe un gouvernement économique. Je ne le dis pas aujourd’hui pour la première fois. Je le dis depuis 1991, lorsque jeune ministre des finances, avec Nicolas Schmit – qui est d’ailleurs de toutes les combines dans mon pays et au-delà –, j’ai dirigé la conférence intergouvernem

General Market

EU response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The Current Situation and Financial Assistance

West Africa is facing the largest and most complex Ebola epidemic on record. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been the most affected countries. Over 27, 514 people have been infected, more than 11,220 of whom have died.

The EU’s total financial contribution to date to fight the epidemic is over €1.8 billion. This amount includes previous funding from the Member States and the European Commission as well as the European Commission’s new pledge of €450 million announced at the UN’s International Ebola Recovery Conference in July.  It excludes, however, further potential pledges made by individual EU Member States at the same UN conference in July. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the decline in the number of cases and the contraction of the geographic area affected by Ebola has stalled during the last weeks. Both in Guinea and Sierra Leone new confirmed cases are still being identified and people continue to be diagnosed with Ebola post mortem. These patterns indicate that the disease is circulating in unrecognised chains of transmission. In order to achieve zero cases, there is a need for strong community engagement, improved contact tracing and earlier identification of cases.

The recent cases in Liberia highlight the importance of maintaining the capacity of early case detection and enhanced vigilance regarding deaths with unknown causes, even in countries that have been declared Ebola free.

The European Union has been active in the response to the Ebola emergency from the start. It has mobilised all available political, financial and scientific resources to help contain, control, treat and ultimately defeat Ebola. In October 2014 the European Council appointed Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, as EU Ebola Coordinator.

Commissioners Christos Stylianides, Vytenis Andriukaitis and Neven Mimica visited the affected countries in late 2014 to reaffirm the EU’s support for the fight against the disease and to announce support measures.

On March 3 2015, the European Union organised a high-level conference on the Ebola epidemic. The purpose was two-fold: first, to take stock of the ongoing emergency response and adapt it to the evolving situation on the ground, leading to eradication of the disease; second, to plan for the long term and support the recovery and resilience of the affected countries, including the development of their health systems. The event was co-chaired by the EU, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Statement of the Co-Chairs from the conference was endorsed by the European Council on 16th March.

In July 2015, a new conference will take place, hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in cooperation with the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in partnership with the European Union, African Union, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank. This pledging conference will bring together the international community and Heads of State from the three countries affected, to ensure that recovery efforts help the countries to build back better and ensure greater resilience going forward.

The Commission will examine the lessons learnt from the Ebola epidemic in a conference that will be held in October in Luxembourg under the Luxembourg Presidency. The outcome of the conference will be the basis of Council conclusions to be adopted in December this year.

Humanitarian Aid

Since March 2014, the European Commission has allocated more than €70 million in humanitarian funding to address the most urgent needs. These funds are channelled through humanitarian partner organisations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, International Medical Corps, Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, Alima, the World Food Programme’s Humanitarian Air Service, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.

EU aid contributes to epidemic surveillance, diagnostics, treatment and medical supplies; deployment of doctors and nurses and training of health workers; raising awareness among the population and the promotion of safe burials.

Development Aid

The Commission is already providing over €210 million in development and early recovery assistance. Most of this money is provided to stabilise the countries and assist them in recovering from the crisis and beyond.

In addition, the EU is helping to strengthen health systems in the affected countries before the outbreak, as part of its long term support, and is now redirecting existing programmes wherever it is necessary towards the Ebola efforts and crisis context.

Budget support is provided to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help them deliver urgently needed public services – in particular health care – and also cushion the economic impact of the epidemic.

Development funding is also being used to strengthen other important areas like healthcare, education, water and sanitation.

Four mobile laboratories, deployed in Guinea and Sierra Leone, help with the detection of the virus and training of health workers. The labs can process up to 70 samples each day, seven days a week.

Furthermore, the EU supports the African Union’s medical mission in West Africa (ASEOWA), contributing EUR 5 million to pay civil and medical staff. This has so far allowed to cover the costs of the first 90 medical professionals and support staff, and to subsequently increase the total number of staff to about 150 people. The European Commission has also deployed health professionals to Guinea from the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and control. As of 29 June 2015, ECDC has deployed 85 health experts in relation to the Ebola response within and outside the EU, including 77 deployed in the West African region. Currently 16 ECDC mobilised experts are in the field. In addition, 9 experts from national fellowship programmes associated with the ECDC training programmes were also deployed by their organisations in the region by EU Member States.

The EU is equally working to strengthen preparedness against the epidemic. The EU has supported national plans in six countries for some €10.6million and has, for example:

  • Helped to refurbish and equip an Ebola treatment unit at the central hospital in Ivory Coast
  • Helped to provide a water and sanitation programme with hygiene messages on Ebola prevention in Guinea Bissau
  • Set up a facility in Burkina Faso to support the national preparedness plan

In addition, the EU is also contributing to the regional preparedness through support to WHO and the International Red Cross with a €6 million contract for each, for activities aimed at preventing the further spread of Ebola disease in West Africa.

Medical Research

The European Commission has promptly and strongly supported urgent Ebola research on potential treatments, vaccines and diagnostic tests with almost €140 million from Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation funding programme.

An initial €24.4 million were deployed to fund five projects that look to develop potential vaccines and medication against Ebola and translate their findings into available treatments. Work on these projects started in October 2014, and some have already begun producing results applicable to the current outbreak. Most promisingly, the EU-funded REACTION project announced encouraging evidence that favipiravir, an antiviral drug, is an effective treatment against early Ebola disease (Fact sheet). Another project called EVIDENT confirmed that the Ebola virus was mutated at a lower rate than feared and concluded that the diagnostic methods, treatments and vaccines under development should still be effective against the disease.More information on EU-funded projects can be found at the EU Research on Ebola website.

Additionally, the European Commission and the European pharmaceutical industry are funding eight research projects on the development of vaccines and rapid diagnostics tests, which are key to overcoming the current Ebola crisis. These projects are run under the new ‘Ebola+’ programme of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and funded with a total of €215 million, €114 million of which come from Horizon 2020.

The EU is also supporting clinical research on Ebola through the European Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), a joint effort by European and Sub-Saharan African countries to develop promising treatments for poverty-related diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. EDCTP recently added Ebola to this list and launched a call to develop new diagnostic tools for these diseases. The Commission has also urged EDCTP to mobilise funding from the Participating States to increase the EDCTP budget for 2014 and 2015 and to coordinate relevant research activities.

The Ebola outbreak demonstrates that ‘rapid reaction’ research and innovation in health crises is needed. In this context, the European Commission and other major funders have recently founded the ‘Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness’ (GloPID-R) which will facilitate launching a coordinated emergency research response within 48 hours in case of a significant new or re-emerging outbreak.

Emergency supplies and expertise

As part of its coordinated response, the EU has provided emergency supplies and sent experts to the affected countries. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism facilitates the delivery of material support from the Member states. They have provided mobile laboratories, treatment centres, ambulances and field hospitals. The EU has organised logistical support including multiple airlifting operations and supports the deployment of navy ships to transport emergency supplies provided by the Member States, such as food aid, medical kits, clean blankets and chlorine for sanitations. EU humanitarian experts, including specialists in hazardous diseases, have been deployed to the three most affected countries.

Medical Evacuation

International health workers are the backbone of the response to the Ebola epidemic. To support their mobilisation and protection, the EU has established a medical evacuation system. Member States are making capacity available for this.

Since the beginning of the epidemic and as of 2 July 2015, 65 individuals have been evacuated or repatriated worldwide from the EVD-affected countries. Of these, 38 individuals have been evacuated or repatriated to Europe. Thirteen were medical evacuations of confirmed EVD-infected patients to: Germany (3), Spain (2), France (2), UK (2), Norway (1), Italy (1), Netherlands(1) and Switzerland (1). Twenty-five asymptomatic persons have been repatriated to Europe as a result of exposure to Ebola in West Africa: UK (13), Denmark (4), Sweden (3), Netherlands (2), Germany (1), Spain (1) and Switzerland (1).

No new medical evacuations have taken place since 18 March 2015.

The medevac system ensures evacuation to an equipped hospital in Europe for international health workers and other EU nationals diagnosed with the virus. Evacuation requests are made by WHO to the health department of the Commission (DG SANTE) which identifies medical facilities available in EU Member States through communications in the EU’s Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). Transport to Europe is then coordinated by the ERCC. To date, a total of 39 people suffering from Ebola or having had a high risk exposure to the virus, have been medically evacuated to Europe.

Advocacy, coordination and diplomatic outreach

From the onset of the crisis, the EU has been in constant contact with the United Nations, relief agencies on the ground, the governments in the region as well as with regional organisations such as the African Union and ECOWAS.

The appointment by the European Council of an EU Ebola Coordinator, Commissioner Christos Stylianides, aims to ensure that EU institutions and Member States act in a coordinated manner with each other and with international partners. To this end, an EU Ebola Task Force has been set up and meets three times a week, bringing together the Member States, Commission services, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and representatives of the UN, the Red Cross and NGOs.

More information

EU pledges €450 million to Ebola affected countries: