CB off Managing migration flows into and within the European Union – a crucial European Parliament election issue.
CB on Hello and welcome to People First, the EPP Group's monthly program on issues with impact on people like you. Joining us to answer some of your questions is Manfred Weber. He´s a member of the Committee on Constitutional Affairs here in the European Parliament, and is also a vice president of the EPP Group. Welcome to the show Mr. Weber.
Manfred Weber, German MEP, on Thank you very much.
CB on We´re going into some European Parliament elections. How difficult is migration an issue in the campaign?
Weber on Well I would say on the one hand, the economic situation is an important point in the election, during the election campaign. And the second important question is really migration. And it´s a very emotional question, migration. we´re talking about identity, we´re talking about perspective for the future when jobless people are seeing migrants coming and so on. It´s a very emotional question. And so we have to deal with it very seriously.
CB on Well let´s look at a few more details on this issue, before we go to the questions. Here´s our report.
European migrants CB off Migration has been a complex and controversial issue for the European Union. Debate has intensified this year, as work restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians expired. That has sparked fears among some of a wave of migrants from the EU's two poorest countries. The UK has tightened up its welfare system to prevent what some call "benefit tourism."
Plenary voting CB off The European Parliament, however, approved a resolution calling on EU governments to respect the freedom of movement as a fundamental right.
Refugees in Lampedusa CB off Meanwhile conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have sent thousands of refugees to European shores, some perishing in their attempts. Others arrive as economic immigrants. Europe faces the difficult task of determining which are true asylum-seekers and which are illegal migrants.
Refugees in Greece CB off Another issue: how to assist countries on the front line, receiving immigrants, such as Italy, Greece and Malta. Frontex is one EU program helping in the effort.
Malta CB off And a final issue: Malta's program offering citizenship to those who pay and invest more than a million euros. The EPP Group backed a European Parliament resolution calling on Malta to alter that policy some call citizenship for sale.
CB on Citizenship for sale, on this last issue. Some in Malta are arguing, we look, the government wants to raise a billion euros - people paying in, to help offset the cost of poor refugees. Because they´re a frontline state with all the refugees, a lot of refugees are arriving on their shores. What do you think?
Weber on Well it´s not acceptable to mix all the issues on the table. Principally citizenship means, you´re belonging to a society, you´re belonging to a state. It´s a question of feeling part of something, it´s a question of identity, of a cultural identity, sometimes of being proud of a historical situation and so on. So this is citizenship in a European sense. And you couldn´t sell such a citizenship in this sense. We at the EPP we are strongly against this proposal in Malta and hopefully the European Parliament in the debate in the European Parliament brings a lot of pressure to Malta that the government is really changing the proposal.
CB on Malta is one of those so-called frontline states when it comes to immigration. Here´s a question, our first vox pop question is related to that.
Vox pop Q Hello my name is Tim and I'm from Slovenia. I would like to know how the European Union defends its borders.
CB on Now how effective is Europe in preventing illegal immigration, and at the same time keeping the door open to those asking for asylum and merit asylum?
Weber on You´re describing two sides of the same medal. On the one hand there is a border, and Europeans must have the right to say you come in and you don´t have the allowance to come in. So there is a border, and like at home, and your door at home, you could say to a visitor, OK please come in, or you say please go away. So this is a right of a state, of the European Union, to defend a border. And principally the European Union is doing a lot in the border control. We have Frontex as you mentioned in your statement and so on. The Frontex is working very well, and strongly together, and we have to work more on the question of the member states, who are doing the main job in the border control, are working more closely together because we have today a very separate approach that each member state is doing whatever he wants to do, and we need more cooperation.
CB on More cooperation, and Frontex you mentioned, Here´s question related to that.
Vox pop Q Hello, my name is Valentina. I come from Vienna. Do you also think that the southern European countries of Europe aren't supported enough? Hallo ich heiss Valentina, ich komme auss Wien. Denken Sie auch, dass die suedlichen europaeischen Laender von der Europa Seite zu wenig unterstuetzt werden?
CB on OK Greece, Italy and Malta, they´ve all been facing a lot of difficulties. Lampedusa, everyone knows Lampedusa, the Italian island that is constantly getting overrun. Are they getting enough help on the EU level?
Weber on On the current problems on the Mediterranean seaside of Europe are obvious. There is a big problem and it´s a big challenge for us. We have to face this challenge. But when you look at the figures, then you see that countries like Sweden, France, Belgium, Germany, are having much more refugees and much more migrants are coming to these member states than to Italy and Spain for example. So it´s not a question of geography, I think it´s really a question of figures and you have a look on them. Each member state has a responsibility and they have to respect the European legislation. And concretely in the Lampedusa case, when we have this tragedy, I must clearly say that the European law is very clear. Each refugee must have ask individually asylum, when he wants to ask this. So you couldn´t send a ship full of refugees back home to Libya. It´s not acceptable from a European legislative point of view.
CB on Now let´s shift gears from immigration to internal migration. Of course that issue was brought to the forefront by the end of restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians. But other people are thinking about that as well. And there were some young people we talked to on that and here´s a question from one of them.
Vox pop Q Hello my name is Shea, I'm from Ireland, and I would like to know how much I would be supported if I moved from one state to another in Europe.
CB on He´s also asking what kind of government, state support can I get in looking for work in another country. How does that work?
Weber on Well freedom of movement is a right for those citizens in the European Union who want to ask for work, or who have enough money, that they have not need to have access to the social welfare system of another member state. So it´s not a right for traveling to another member state to get access to another social welfare system. That´s not a right. So it´s clearly limited, and I think that there is a need to do this.
CB on Perhaps I can expand on that. How does the EU manage that, support that?
CB on And what about non-Europeans? Here´s one.
Vox pop Q My name is Cameron and I'm from New Orleans. I would like to know if a non-European can get social security benefits if they lose their job.
CB on OK, Cameron is a teacher. And she is, is her kind of job the kind of job that the EU would allow a non-European to come in and perform?
Weber on Well first of all, if a non-European wants to come into the European Union, then she or he needs permission for doing this. So there is need to get a permission, and that´s a question for the member states. Because the work market, labour markets inside the European Union are totally different. For example in Germany and Austria there is a need of more workers. There is a good economic situation. In Italy obviously not, there is no need for new workers.
CB on Different countries need certain kinds of workers then right?
Weber on That depends on the national politicians, on the national governments. And in this case when someone is working here, and has permission and is working here and is going jobless, then it´s clear that they have the full access to the social welfare system because they paid in the past to the social welfare system in France, in Poland and so on.
CB on A final question in this coming election, parliamentary election. Populist parties are obviously trying to get mileage from the issue of migration-immigration. How do you deal with that issue without risking sounding like them?
Weber on Well the biggest mistake we could do is to try to copy populists. If you are copying populists, then the people will always vote for the original, not for a bad copy. And the answer from serious politicians must be to defend principles, to argue for principles like the freedom of movement. It´s a big thing for Europe that we have this right. And on the other hand we have to tackle the problems. We have to talk about the problems. There is misuse of some of the rights, there is misuse inside the European Union, and we have to solve these obviously on the table lying questions. So these I think are the answers. Stand for the principles, defend the principles, for young people, for people who are looking for jobs. But in these specific small cases where there is misuse, let´s work on them.
CB on Very sensitive issue for any policymaker and especially ahead of these elections. Manfred Weber thanks very much for joining us.
Stand-up CB on That's it for now on People First.
Find out more about the activities of the largest political force in parliament by checking eppgroup.eu.
Until next time, thanks for watching!
Headline Fight illegal immigration, but defend free movement inside the EU, EPP´s Weber says
Description EPP Group MEP Manfred Weber discusses EU efforts to manage migration, defend Europe´s borders, and ensure legal asylum and free movement inside the EU as a means of helping people find jobs.
Tags Migration, Immigration, Manfred Weber, EPP Group, European Parliament, Brussels