The refugee crisis poses a serious challenge, both to the welfare of refugees and to European societies. Now it is time to act – not individually and at the expense of others, but jointly and in a spirit of European solidarity. The seven signatories of the letter, writing in an individual capacity, see an urgent need for a common European approach to complement local and national efforts.
The letter calls on European leaders to overcome disagreement on substance. Now it is time to act. Building on current discussions, the signatories propose a comprehensive agenda at the EU level, with five major dimensions.
First, it is important to control the EU's external borders so that only refugees fleeing war and persecution who have a legitimate right to seek asylum can enter and potentially remain in the EU. The porous nature of the EU's external borders has meant an unacceptable loss of control in the eyes of many EU citizens, and has raised false hopes for irregular migrants trying to enter the Union.
Second, the EU should develop a system which distributes a much larger number of refugees across the Union, directly from the hotspots in the EU and the neighboring countries. The conclusions from the European Council seem to move in the right direction in this regard.
Third, EU member states should improve, standardize and speed up the processes to determine asylum applications. The sooner refugees know whether they can stay, the more energy can be invested in their integration into host countries' societies and in family reunions.
Fourth, EU-level efforts to improve the living conditions of refugees staying in countries close to their countries of origin should be expanded.
The final dimension of action must be geared toward ending the violent conflicts that are the principal causes of the crisis. In particular, Europe must invest heavily in the Syria peace process. It must help to stabilize the region and improve living conditions in its neighborhood.
Action at the national level will also be required. The social and economic integration of refugees must be a priority at all levels.
The letter concludes that Europe is strong enough to manage the migration challenges, but only if political leaders act now, act responsibly and use the resources at their disposal, including support from civil society working in this area. Only a European solution will be workable and sustainable.
In 2016, Vision Europe – a partnership between seven leading think tanks and foundations in Europe – will focus its efforts on providing practical solutions to the current refugee crisis and its root causes. The partners are working together to advance new ideas, frame an informed debate and emphasize the benefits of common European solutions to Europe-wide problems.
Please find the complete open letter as download file on the right hand side.