What Ursula Von der Leyen says about illegal migration, the theme used by Austria to oppose Romania's accession to Schengen

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Thursday, at the end of the EPP Congress in Bucharest, that the proposal from the EPP manifesto regarding the transfer of asylum seekers to third countries aims to protect people who need this protection. The head of the Community Executive stated that it is unacceptable that migrants who are illegible, are brought illegally into the EU by smugglers and traffickers, “under incredible circumstances”.

Ursula von der Leyen: We invest a lot of money in creating legal migration paths PHOTO EPA EFE

The European Party, the largest political force in the European Parliament, wants a transfer of asylum seekers to third countries, in the face of migration pressure, according to its manifesto adopted on Wednesday, unanimously, during their two-day Congress in Bucharest.

Ursula von der Leyen, asked in a press conference with the EPP president, Manfred Weber, at the end of the EPP Congress, which are the third countries she is considering for these transfers, did not mention specific states.

I think it is absolutely clear that whatever we do will be in full compliance with our obligations under EU and international legislation. That's what I said in my speech (before the vote by which the PPE candidate was appointed to head the EC – no). And the concept of safe third countries is not new. It is already established in EU law (…) Our manifesto is written in accordance with EU law“, explained Ursula von der Leyen, according to Agrepres.

For his part, Manfred Weber reiterated that the manifesto clearly states that “the right to asylum and the Geneva Convention, the two pillars of a humanitarian approach, represent our basic principle”.

Our values ​​must be preserved, they must be protected. But, on the other hand, people all over Europe expect us to reduce the number of illegal migrants. And, therefore, what our candidate, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also said in her speech is that the state decides on the external border, and not the smugglers who decide who enters, and this is exactly our party political message to citizens, who can count on us to use all the means at our disposal, all the means legally possible, to reduce the number of illegal migrant arrivals in Europe“, said the president of the EPP.

According to Weber, the proposal comes as a response to the concerns of European citizens. “So I would call our approach a pro-people approach. We care about the demands, requests, concerns of our European citizens. They want to have control over our external border“, he specified.

Von der Leyen: We invest a lot of money in creating legal migration paths

Ursula von der Leyen said she was not worried that the proposal would not be supported in the European Parliament by the European Socialists and Liberals, the other two major political families.

I think it is exactly the opposite, because what we have demonstrated and proven during this mandate is that for the first time in the last many years, almost ten years, we managed to have the pact on migration and asylum, so that we have common rules between states EU members on how to manage migration. We strengthened the external borders. And this is largely related to the comprehensive agreements we conclude with countries of transit and origin“, said the head of the EC.

The idea behind the EPP proposal is that “we want to defend the precious value of asylum, protecting people in need. But what is not acceptable is that migrants who do not need (protection – no), who are not eligible for asylum, are brought by smugglers and traffickers in incredible circumstances to the European Union. That's why I said very clearly that we are the ones who decide who comes to us, while protecting the vulnerable, and under what conditions, in humane conditions, not in these horrible conditions offered by smugglers and traffickers, who luring people with false promises“, Ursula von der Leyen also said.

Therefore, in order to protect the precious right to asylum when international protection is needed, we must be very clear that those who do not need protection cannot come to the European Union illegally, but that there are legal avenues that can be used. We are investing a lot of money now in creating these legal pathways, for example by developing education and training in countries of origin or transit, so that we have a coherent approach to the subject of migration and do not let smugglers and traffickers dominate scene“, she added.

The EPP proposal, regarding asylum seekers

The proposal in the EPP manifesto regarding the transfer of asylum seekers to third countries marks a clear change in European migration policy, implemented so far by the European Commission under Ursula von der Leyen.

We plead for a fundamental change in the European asylum legislation. We are committed to respecting the fundamental right to asylum, but the EU, together with its member states, must have the right to decide to whom and where it is granted. We will conclude agreements with third countries to ensure that asylum seekers can be granted protection in a civilized and safe way. We want to implement the concept of safe third countries“, the EPP manifesto states.

Any EU asylum seeker could be transferred “to one of these countries” and undergo asylum procedures there“, it is specified in this electoral program for the European elections.

In case of a positive answer, the third country in question will grant him protection on the spot” on the basis of a “comprehensive contractual agreement“concluded in advance, the manifesto also mentions.

The criteria for safe third countries are in line with the fundamental obligations of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights. None of the conventions include the right to freely choose the country of protection. Following the successful implementation of the third country concept, we propose to admit into the EU a quota of people who need protection through annual humanitarian quotas of vulnerable people. This allows us to meet both security and integration requirements in the selection process and effectively deny entry to illegal migrants at our external borders“, according to the document.

More than one million asylum applications in the EU, mostly from Syrian and Afghan citizens, were submitted in 2023, a seven-year high, according to the European Asylum Agency. In this context, the EU reached an agreement in December on a broad reform of its migration and asylum policy, aimed at intensifying the fight against illegal immigration. It provides for a strengthening of controls upon the arrival of migrants in the EU, but also a mandatory mechanism of solidarity between member countries in taking care of asylum seekers.

The current president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was designated on Thursday, at the PPE Congress in Bucharest, the candidate of the European people for a new mandate as head of the community executive.

Her candidacy was approved with 400 votes 'for' and 89 'against', out of the 489 votes validly cast, in a secret ballot process. Another ten votes were annulled. In total, 801 delegates have the right to vote, but the EPP press office was unable to specify how many of them were present at the EPP Congress in Bucharest.

She was the only candidate to lead the EPP list in the June 6-9 European elections and, therefore, to obtain a new five-year mandate as head of the EC.