[check against delivery]
Luxembourg, 13 October 2017
Today we had important discussions in the Council, particularly on Schengen, as well as on the next steps in our asylum and migration policy, and security and counter-terrorism.
Let me start with our discussion on Schengen.
As you are aware a few weeks ago, we proposed amending the Schengen Borders Code, in order to maintain the very important balance of freedom of movement and the need to be able to address serious threats to public policy or internal security.
I reiterated this morning to all ministers:
not only is the ABSENCE of border controls the essence of Schengen, or the fact that controls are and remain a measure of last resort.
Our EUROPEAN and joint approach is EQUALLY the essence of Schengen.
This is what we must continue to pursue – and I was glad to hear that all the countries that notified that they wish to have controls beyond 12 November, confirmed that they have the European spirit in mind.
We have to maintain the very important balance between free movement and security.
This is precisely the aim of our proposed measures, where we introduce:
- reinforced procedural safeguards,
- an obligation for Member States to coordinate their actions with other concerned Member States,
- and clear parameters, conditions, and restrictions.
This approach makes sure that everyone plays by the rules.
I strongly believe that the proposed changes in the Schengen Borders Code will make Schengen stronger and more resilient, allowing Member States to respond to security threats when needed, while maintaining the essence of free movement of goods, people and services.
I reiterated to ministers today the need for a quick compromise on this issue.
I also emphasised the need for an inclusive Schengen.
As President Juncker said in his State of the Union address, the Commission is fully supporting the full accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area.
On the reform of the Common European Asylum System, our overall objective is clear.
We want to improve the efficiency of the system, fight abuses and secondary movements and offer better and quicker protection to those in need while returning those who are not in need.
At the same time, solidarity and the sharing of responsibility have to be real.
We cannot leave the bulk of the responsibility – whether in law or practice – to a few Member States only.
As you know, I made a recommendation for a further 50,000 resettlement places.
I am glad that Member States have already pledged 25 000 places.
I am confident that by the end of October we will reach our target.
Resettlement is a key instrument of our migration policy.
Resettlement is about cutting smugglers out, reducing irregular migration, and saving lives.
At the same time, we need to be ready for the future and design a system that is fair to all – and this includes the Dublin reform.
Finally, let me also say a word about our ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.
Today we were joined by the Counter-Terrorism Group, which is the intelligence services of our Member States.
When it comes to sharing data and exchanging information on terrorists and foreign fighters, we need to break down silos.
Of course national security is and will be a competence of the Member States.
But we need pragmatic solutions that will bring concrete results against terrorism.
We need to build bridges between the law enforcement and intelligence communities across Europe.
This is the underlying idea for an EU Intelligence Unit, that we are now working on.
The objective is not to proliferate new structures or bodies.
But to create stronger synergies.
To take our collective security work one step further, for the sake and security of all our citizens.
But we need also concrete, pragmatic solutions for the immediate term, when terrorist attacks are committed with such alarming frequency.
Next Wednesday, we will propose operational measures to support our Member States fighting terrorism on the ground:
- to better protect our public spaces;
- to prevent the misuse of explosives precursors;
- to step up our preparedness and our resilience against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Threats;
- and to step up our work against radicalisation online and offline
These issues are urgent, and our collective commitment is paramount.
I look forward to continuing the excellent cooperation with ministers on all these issues in the coming months, and wish to thank my colleague Minister Andres Anvelt for his important role in making sure we all make progress.