AEBR at the Council of Europe ’s meeting on border regions and migration – Interview with AEBR Secretary General Martín Guillermo Ramírez :



 

Last November, AEBR Secretary General Martín Guillermo Ramírez attended the 35th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on migration phenomena.

The debate was entitled “Border regions facing migration phenomena” and focused specifically on the impact of migration flows on European political agendas, especially in those regions experiencing these phenomena the most, which often are border regions at the periphery of Europe.

AEBR participated to the debate and contributed to the final report adopted by the Congress. The focus was on aspects like the reception of refugees and the integration of migrants, which pose the question of the potential benefits of cross-border co-operation among regions situated on the periphery of Europe or at the borders of countries within Europe.

The report adopted by the Congress argues for an integrated approach to the management of migration in which different levels of government, NGOs and partners in countries of origin and transit are involved.

“Solidarity is vital because migration is a process which affects the whole of Europe and can be regarded as an opportunity in the long term” said on this occasion Eirini Dourou, rapporteur of the Congress on migration.

The report emphasises the role of local and regional authorities as key players in the network of governance that benefit migrants. With this perspective, in the debate the Congress urged Member States to coordinate with local and regional politicians to enable them to access European funding and develop tools to face this process.

At the end of the session, Mr Guillermo Ramírez gave an interview via the “Mediabox” of the CoE. With it, AEBR Secretary General had the chance to highlight what the common priorities of the Congress of Europe and AEBR are, namely the willingness to focus on border regions. In particular, both want to address those border regions outside of the EU where there are less programmes of support and, often, many more challenges. AEBR is currently working together with the Congress to develop programmes and tools to support these regions in dealing with migration flows.

Link to the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh6Jy-upzWM&feature=youtu.be

https://youtu.be/Bh6Jy-upzWM

With regard to migration, Mr Guillermo Ramírez said that the first challenge is to convince Europeans that migration is a phenomenon, not a problem. Migration could be a challenge and pose difficulties, but it is a reality to be addressed. It is important to keep in mind that in historical terms we all are migrants. Europe used to produce many migrants, for different reasons, in the past. Now we are receiving migrants: it is Europe’s turn to take up the role of a receiving continent.

AEBR Secretary General underlined also the need to consider demographic trends when talking about migration: “if we don’t integrate migrants, in 20-30 years we will face difficulties in finding the necessary resources to cover the needs of the labour market, as well as to sustain the pension system of our societies, so migration is necessary in egocentric terms”.

A fundamental aspect is to support the development of the countries of origin, said Mr Guillermo Ramírez. Forced migration has an incredibly negative impact on the person who is forced by necessity to migrate – as often people migrate because of necessity, not by personal choice. However, migration has also a strong disadvantage for the country of origin because it is mostly people with most resources who leave. “We have to find a way to promote the development of the country of origin in order to absorb part of this population who has to migrate. A way to do so is to have a good exchange of measures to foster development”, claimed AEBR Secretary General. He concluded that it is also necessary to explain to European citizens that migration is not a threat, it is not a phenomenon that will damage Europe and its services, but it rather makes our society richer. We need measures to manage migration which, in the long term, will improve the quality of life in our cities and regions, for all citizens.

Mr Guillermo Ramírez echoed what has been discussed in the debate before: to deal with migration a multi-level governance is necessary. Migration is an issue that cannot be managed only by nation states, but the regional and local level are essential. Both a vertical and an horizontal coordination of the governance should be implemented: all levels of governance should be involved, but also all stakeholders within the society, and beyond national boundaries. Cross-border cooperation allows to coordinate efforts with the neighbouring communities and to share resources and opportunities.

The concept of a multilevel governance that we want to develop is also a place for civil society, academia and private sector to participate along with the public sector. We are talking about a new social contract in which the development of border regions can be discussed by all stakeholders, as well as other issues as migration, environmental issues, sustainable development. Those topics that are discussed in summits, but have an impact on our lives and thus need a local action, too. The Association of European Border Regions and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities share this vision to facilitate the management of issues like migration.

On the following link more information on the CoE session “Border Regions facing Migration” are available: https://www.coe.int/en/web/congress/-/border-regions-facing-the-migrations?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fen%2Fweb%2Fcongress%2F35th-session

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