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Brussels, 4 February 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure and an honour for me to be here with you today.

As you know, migration and security continue to be the two top concerns of our citizens today.

Since I started as Commissioner, over the past few years we have developed an increasingly operational approach to address the challenges related to these areas.

Some of you here today have already contributed to making a concrete difference on the ground for our citizens.

In other words, you help us to make our policy a reality on the ground.

Your projects demonstrate the added value of the European Union’s support in helping  Member States:

  • to better manage migratory flows
  • and increase security for our citizens

Let me start with migration which is an important challenge for all of us; a successful migration policy is both a humanitarian and a socio-economic imperative.

This is why we have put in place a comprehensive migration policy , in order to support actions within and outside Europe.

Our approach has different elements and each of them is equally important.

Our objective is to create legal pathways to the EU for those in need of protection as well as for economic migrants.

Those who have the right to stay, should get every support possible to integrate successfully.

These objectives go hand in hand with the need to address the root causes of irregular migration, break the business model of smugglers and traffickers, and better manage our borders.

You have contributed to put in place all these elements.

In 2018, 347 organisations have benefitted from support under the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.

While we are not in the same situation as in 2015, our work is not over.

What we need to acknowledge is that migration is our new reality.

Therefore, we need a sustainable and long-term migration policy.

This is why I would like to touch upon one crosscutting issue in particular: how we help refugees and migrants integrate, and how we build cohesive societies, bottom-up.

We can only achieve this together with the national, regional, local authorities and civil society organisations, through projects like yours.

For example, earlier today, we heard the experience of the Cities Grow project, which supports mutual learning and mentoring between sixteen European cities for a more effective labour market integration of migrants.

I know that it is not easy in practice.

As a former Mayor of Athens, I have experienced first-hand the challenges that cities face in Europe.

This is precisely why we want to continue supporting those many different projects because you know exactly what you need on the ground.

A good example is this project (LABOUR INT 2) that gathers 12 economic and social partners across Europe to develop innovative approaches for a better integration of migrants from arrival up to inclusion into the work place. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need a Europe that is open, but also secure.

It is a priority for us in the European Commission, and for me personally, to help Member States to ensure our societies are secure for our citizens, based on our values of openness, tolerance, solidarity and unity.

In the last few years we have also been working towards building an effective and genuine Security Union, to better support and strengthen cooperation between Member States in the face of various security threats. 

This includes: countering radicalisation, boosting cybersecurity, cutting terrorist financing, as well as improving information exchange.

Many of the projects represented here today are exactly about this: building partnerships for the safety and security of our citizens.

This means tackling security threats before they materialise but also protecting our infrastructures better and strengthening cooperation across Europe.

Our funding has supported dozens of European networks, bringing together law enforcement officials from different countries.

This is to engage them in joint operations, share best practices in the fight against crime, and to this end, harness new technology together.

For example in the Cybercrime area, the project Cerberus will develop a platform allowing to crack passwords used by criminals.

At the same time, we continue to support the prevention of radicalisation in Member States, both by supporting the Radicalisation Awareness Network, and by launching individual projects focused on preventing and countering radicalisation. 

For example, the project YoungRes will fight polarisation through digital technologies.

It will develop a serious game to help vulnerable young people develop their critical thinking.

We have also supported several civil society organisations to develop counter terrorist narratives by providing positive alternatives.

With the Civil Society Empowerment Programme, local actors will work with professional communication agencies, and twelve campaigns will be launched simultaneously across Europe, reaching out many young people via the media they follow.

After the attacks that have taken place in different Member States, including recently in Strasbourg, the protection of public spaces has become more and more important.  

Thanks to our support, the current projects developing better protection of public spaces amount to 25 million euros.

They range from enhancing security by design, protecting against vehicle ramming attacks and improving the protection level in rail security, to training and awareness raising.

The projects you are implementing are translating the European Union’s policies and priorities into concrete measures with tangible results.

Because what you do is in the interest of our citizens and our societies.

More importantly, your efforts contribute to the European Union’s image and perception that people have.

And with the European elections ahead of us, this perception is all the more critical.

Thank you very much for your attention.