Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for “promoting the European way of life”, the Greek Margaritis Schinas is also the architect of the “global pact for migration” unveiled in autumn 2020 and still under discussion.
The shipwreck of migrants who left Calais tragically illustrated the need to define a European migration policy, but also to discuss relations with London again. What is your view on this affair?
Brexit supporters have claimed they will assume control of their country’s borders. When we negotiated the partnership treaty, we wanted a chapter on immigration and asylum, which would have made it possible to manage such situations. The British refused. Today, they tell us “Get over it, take back the migrants!” And affirm, at the same time, wanting to work together for a solution. It is inconsistent and I wonder if they do not just want to put the full burden of responsibility on Europe. However, if they want to really engage, we are ready to discuss.
On the border between Belarus and Poland, there is talk, without the press or MEPs being able to verify it, of a “de-escalation”. Is she real?
Yes, and it is the fruit of the joint action that the Europeans have been able to carry out. Our threats of sanctions against the carriers who fueled human trafficking, my own trips to the countries of origin, our cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help the victims still in the border area, and our help with return programs: all of this has had beneficial effects. We are providing funding for returns and have just authorized exceptional measures allowing the member countries concerned to temporarily derogate from certain rules of asylum law.
Poland contests the very principle of these rules. How do you judge the attitude of this country which, for many, seems to have used this crisis for its own benefit?
The situation as it was created at the border was no ordinary affair and had nothing to do with migration. It was a mass, major, planned, hybrid attack [l’Union européenne a accusé le président biélorusse, Alexandre Loukachenko, d’avoir orchestré la venue de milliers de migrants]. We therefore had to face it, but in a proportionate manner, with an anchoring in our values. This is also why the Commission presented, on Wednesday 2 December, provisional measures and a legal framework, for a period of six months, in order to face an exceptional situation.
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“Europe has succeeded, in Poland and in the Baltic countries, in opposing those who hoped to attack it by instrumentalizing migration.”