Tunisia/Italy/immigration – EU/Schengen/borders – France/EU/Roma
Paris, February 22, 2011
Q. – What’s your analysis of the recent wave of Tunisian immigration to Italy?
THE MINISTER – It hasn’t surprised me. A wind of change blows when a regime topples along with all its constraints and controls. “The other side” is seen as an El Dorado, but the Tunisians’ future lies in Tunisia.
Q. – How can we persuade them of that?
THE MINISTER – Europe must and will help them, but in Tunisia and not in Lampedusa. The time for talk is over. Maybe we didn’t react fast enough collectively, but the time has come for action. We must develop real cooperation, real solidarity and support the transition, with a requirement to get results. That’s the message I’m going to convey in Tunisia along with Christine Lagarde. The European Union must stop lagging behind events.
Q. – In other words, in your opinion, ensure better monitoring of its borders?
THE MINISTER – I prefer to talk about “protection”, but it’s true we must step up a gear, and I’ve decided to do that with Brice Hortefeux. We’re experiencing an untenable paradox, a mixture of “every man for himself” and “Europe for us all”. The borders are European and therefore collective, but when a crisis arises the reaction is: “Sort it out by yourselves.” The pressure from 80% of illegal immigrants is concentrated in a few countries, like Italy, Spain, Malta and Poland. We must help them cope.
Q. – What are the remedies?
THE MINISTER – First of all, using the Frontex agency better. In Greece, Europe’s deployment brought the number of daily crossings down from 300 to 100. We’re going to act in Italy too. We must strengthen Frontex’s operational capabilities and contemplate, for example, the agency being able to co-finance purchases of helicopters and boats by certain Member States and have the chance, in return, to use them for European operations for a given period.
National border guards must also stop working in an isolated way. Let’s develop real, European, integrated teamwork. Why not an “Erasmus” in this field too and ultimately – even if the idea bothers people – European border guards? Thirdly, our exchange of data is insufficient and we lack a comprehensive approach. We must defend, as a single entity, borders which are currently split up.
Q. – Are you calling into question the Schengen system of “Europe without borders”?
THE MINISTER – Just the opposite. I’m saying we must uphold a European approach to the border question. I believe in Europe’s ability to protect us, and therefore – in the same way as we’ve just done for the euro – question itself about how the Schengen system is run: on the basis of over-artificial criteria. The number of cameras or cars put in place means nothing… We need criteria based not on resources but results.
Q. – Are you pointing the finger at Romania and Bulgaria?
THE MINISTER – Let’s recognize the work those countries have done, but let’s admit that when we talk about arms, drugs or people trafficking we can’t take it lightly. Hasty decisions to enlarge Schengen would be bad for the EU’s credibility and backfire on the countries concerned. From now on, we must build with those States serious action plans enabling us to curb corruption and improve the effectiveness of their judicial systems.
Q. – What do you think the follow-up will be to the Roma issue and the arguments between Paris and the Commission?
THE MINISTER – There too, faced with a European problem the solution is European. The controversy and the criticisms are behind us. More than €10 billion supposed to encourage better integration of that minority is on the table, but less than 10% of this sum is being used! Let’s develop bonus-malus mechanisms, to help or penalize regions and municipalities depending on whether or not they want to make efforts to integrate.
Q. – Is it still possible to cooperate with Commissioner Viviane Reding following the criticisms she’s made?
THE MINISTER – We’ve turned the page. We support the Hungarian presidency’s plans to tackle what is an historic challenge, because until now Europe hasn’t been capable of providing the necessary answers as to the fate of the too-often-forgotten Roma minority./.