Statements

The Regional Workshop "Irregular Migration and Security in the Black Sea Region"
Bucharest, 12 - 14 March 2003

Address by
H.E. Mr. Mircea GEOANA
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ROMANIA

First of all, allow me to warmly welcome all of you to Romania. We are honoured by the participation of Mr. Brunson MCKINLEY, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration. I would like to commend the efforts made by this Organisation to contribute to our regional projects and policies in the field of migration. We are most interested in the expertise that the IOM an offer for complementing the EU policies for regulating migration and combating illegal immigration. I would also like to welcome the participation of representatives of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation whose efforts in strengthening cooperation, stability and common projects can help us coordinate our efforts for obtaining concrete results. Not lastly, I am particularly glad to welcome the representatives of the countries of the Black Sea region: together we can devise the most adequate forms for defining a common platform to address the complexity of the migration phenomenon, in social, economic, human and security perspectives.

The agenda of this meeting offered us the necessary framework for an open and direct debate in the three working groups (trafficking, organised crime and regional cooperation). We have had here all the ingredients to streamline regional and inter-regional initiatives developed so far in this area, with a view to defining the most efficient policies for the stability of our regions. The paradigm of our cooperation needs to be based on our common European approaches and on our shared commitment to the fundamental values of human rights.

Challenges posed by migration

The causes of migration are varied, but the main factors relate to the economic and social conditions, whether it is translated in poverty or lack of professional opportunities. No matter how strong the borders we may build for controlling migration, economic development is the best way for easing potential pressures. To paraphrase a line from a well-known poem by Robert Frost, it is true that "good fences make good neighbours", but we need to be aware that it is not only the strengthening of our borders that will successfully manage migration. We need to invest in new opportunities for the labour force in this region, in new opportunities for the younger generation to fulfil its professional goals in its own country.

Investing in social and economic stability is critical for securing the overall security of the region, preventing the emergence of new division lines and avoiding its de-coupling from the European values.

Security in this region will be complemented by designing cohesive and efficient regional and inter-regional policies for managing migration. These efforts need to be built on good faith and cooperation between the countries of origin, those of transit and destination states, as well as trust between states and their citizens. We need to control migration without impeding the rights of law-abiding people to free movement.

Our focus needs to be on how we can contain illegal activities and strengthen border control, in order to prevent the spread of crime that uses the vehicle of migration. The country of origin is the first responsible for controlling its borders and preventing illegal migration, in cooperation with the public authorities of potential transit or destination countries.

We should keep in mind the distinction between migration involving people who will be employed in socially and economically useful activities, and illegal migration that becomes a vehicle for organised crime. This is where we need to distinguish between those who become victims of human trafficking and those who run these illegal networks. This distinction is important because it needs to be reflected in legal terms. We need to punish the perpetrators, not the victims.

On the other hand, we need to think of the best ways to regulate migration and coordinate our policies so as to give legal migrants the possibility to exercise their right to free movement and better jobs. Migrants run the risk of becoming potential victims of trafficking networks if we do not find a way to coordinate together our efforts. We need to manage together the demand-offer paradigm of the labour markets.

Let us be aware that there is an important potential of socially useful activities that migrants have provided and can continue to provide in the destination society. And when I say that I do not exclusively mean less paid, heavier or low status jobs. I am thinking of skilled labour who will find highly qualified jobs in the future knowledge-based society. This can have unwanted effects on our countries because we risk confronting ourselves with the prospect of brain-drain from our societies, with highly skilled professionals who may decide to exercise their profession elsewhere. This is why I believe that we need to encourage a stronger investment in human capital for preventing its draining and the dangers of social polarisation.

EU-focused approach

Managing the issue of migration presents leaders in the Black Sea region, but equally our Western partners, with a common challenge. In order to succeed, we need a new political approach of the EU towards the Black Sea region, a "contract" centred around consistently investing in projects with a social impact on stability.

AIf the EU is to work with its neighbourhood to create an area of shared prosperity and stability, proximity policy must go hand-in-hand with action to tackle the root causes of the political instability, economic vulnerability, conflict and poverty and social exclusion, including the migration phenomena. We commend the European Commission for the document "Wider Europe - Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours" that represents an important platform for future projects dedicated to the EU partners, including from the Black Sea region.

We have a common interest in ensuring the new external border of the EU is not a barrier to trade, social and cultural interchange, human contacts or regional cooperation. The impact of ageing and demographic decline, globalisation and specialisation means the EU and its neighbours from the Black Sea region can profit from putting in place mechanisms that allow workers to move from one territory to another where skills are needed most - although the free movement of people and labour remains the long-term objective.

An efficient and user-friendly system for small border traffic is an essential part of the regional development policy. We could look together at ways of facilitating the crossing borders for bona fide third-country nationals living in the border areas that have legitimate and valid grounds for regularly crossing the border and do not pose any security threat. The EU could also consider the possibilities for facilitating the movement of citizens of neighbouring countries participating in EU programmes and activities.

I would like to use the opportunity to express Romania's appreciation for the intense and fruitful commitment by the EU and the European financial institutions such as EBRD and EIB to regional development projects in the Black Sea area, as a substantial means for social stabilisation in the region. Timely investment in social, economic and education field is in fact the most valuable instrument for stability, security and human progress in the Black Sea region.

The EU together with other international organizations assistance is essential in reinforcing the neighbouring countries' efforts to combat illegal migration and to establish efficient mechanisms for returns, especially illegal transit migration. Concluding readmission agreement with all the neighbours will be an essential element in joint efforts to curb illegal migration.

Both domestic measures and intensified bilateral and multilateral action are indispensable to fight organised crime. Particular attention should be paid to the criminal phenomena associated to illegal migration, like drugs trafficking, trafficking in human beings, smuggling of migrants, fraud, counterfeiting, money laundering and corruption.

We can overcome the threats to human dignity posed by human traffickers and organised criminal networks by an urgent and consistent joint effort by the governments of the region, European and international partners.

Shared values and mutual understanding in the Black Sea Region provide the foundations for stronger political relations, enhanced cooperation on justice and security issues, business environmental improvement. The importance of dialogue between civilisations and the free exchange of ideas between cultures, religions, traditions and human links cannot be over- emphasised. We should work together to the development of a flourishing civil society to promote basic liberties and people to people contacts. We also needs to make a greater effort to create a positive image of the Black Sea Region in the neighbourhood and to act to combat stereotypes which affect perceptions of our countries within the EU.

Exchange programmes between youth and universities, the creation of European studies courses and the opening of new Euro-information centres, 'people-to-people' activities, including professional exchange/visit programmes, activities in the field of media, training and journalists exchanges deserve close consideration. Exchanges on a regional level regarding human rights training issues have proven beneficial and should be explored further.

An important element in combating irregular migration is to consolidate the involvement of civil society in presenting and creating a strong public awareness campaign on the risks posed by irregular migration. The Romanian philosophy is one of governmental support to, and effective partnership with, NGOs in extending their contacts and building regional networks, aimed at preventing human trafficking, organised crime associated with irregular or illegal migration.

We need to synchronize the Justice and Home Affairs policies of the EU with a regional code of conduct for addressing the legal, social and law enforcement aspects related to migration.

Contribution of the International Organisation for Migration

We welcome the creation of a unit within the International Organisation for Migration that is devoted to migration of the labour force. Romania can actively contribute to developing the concepts and defining concrete programs, in fields which are important to us in the EU perspective. We consider useful to involve the expertise of the IOM in implementing bilateral agreements for regulating migration of the labour force.

The training courses that the IOM will be organising this year would undoubtedly be extremely beneficial for the experts of the countries of the Black Sea region who deal with migration.

We welcome the good cooperation between IOM and The SECI Center of Bucharest, all the more so as this Center intends to develop its cooperation with countries of the Black Sea and Caucasus regions, which will give larger scope to IOM projects for South Eastern and Eastern Europe, as well as the Caucasus region.

The expertise of the IOM in relating migration with the objectives of economic development is particularly useful in assessing new approaches on the process for consolidating the mutually beneficial relationship between the Romanian Diaspora and the country of origin.

I'm convinced it would be particularly useful to continue by organising a seminar to analyse the relation between the migration of the labour force and the process of EU enlargement, from the point of view of protecting the rights of the migrant workers.

Concluding remarks:

  • Illegal migration can be a serious threat to security, a vehicle for terrorist and criminal activities if we do not take preventive action and if we do not implement the necessary measures to fight against it. Romania has proved that it is serious in implementing its commitments in strengthening border control. The results of our efforts have begun to be seen.

  • We need to draw up an integrated approach on how to deal with the pressure of migration in the Black Sea region. We need to be ready to share the experience of each of our countries in setting legal frameworks. The EU has a crucial role to play in investing in social and economic stability, critical for securing the overall security of the region, preventing the emergence of new division lines and avoiding its de-coupling from the European values.

  • We clearly need to coordinate our policies for managing the economic and social potential of migration. Our foremost objective should be to harness the energy of migration and make it a force for the good, both for the lives of individuals as well as participating countries.


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