Friday

22nd Nov 2019

EU cities want say on refugee policy

  • Berlin receieved 80,000 aslyum seekers last year, stretching local authorities' capabilities to a breaking point (Photo: Oxfam International)

Cities are at the forefront of the migration crisis, yet have little access to direct EU funding and need to have a bigger say in national policies, a roundtable discussion in the European Commission with mayors revealed on Tuesday (5 April.)

“Migration is largely an urban reality, cities are confronted with challenges of education, housing, employment. Cities are at the forefront of these challenges,” EU commissioner for regional policy Corina Cretu said after meeting with the mayors and vice-mayors of Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Ghent, Leipzig and Paris.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Cretu highlighted that €15 billion of the EU’s 2014-2020 cohesion funds are directly managed by cities.

She said cohesion funds are ready to help with housing, childcare, health care, language courses and professional training.

But most of the funding goes through the national governments, and that makes it difficult to have quick results on the ground in cities most affected by the influx.

“There are specific funds for integration, handled through the member states, and sometimes we don’t even have information on those funds,” Ada Colau Ballano, Barcelona’s mayor said after the meeting.

“We have to be part of the solution,” the mayor said.

“Governments have to listen to local governments,” EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, a former mayor of Athens, said at the event, adding: “As a former mayor I can tell you, it is difficult to convince them.”

The current mayor of Athens called for solidarity among cities. Giorgos Kaminis said for instance that Barcelona hosted 100 refugees from Athens, and there was “no echo from the Spanish government”.

Avramopoulos acknowledged that the crisis has pushed many cities to their limits, and that local authorities are the first to provide shelter, food and clothing.

Of the over 1 million migrants who have come to Europe, 40 percent are women, and there are 10,000 unaccompanied children, Cretu said.

The commissioners urged member states to direct some of the cohesion funds to urban areas where it helps the integration of asylum seekers.

Cretu also said the EU commission will come up with an action plan on integration in May or June, which will focus on how best to avoid segregation, ghettos, and second class citizenship.

Bigger say

A report published on Monday also highlighted the need for cities to receive more funding and play a bigger role in policy-making in the migration crisis.

A survey of 34 cities in 17 EU countries and Norway by the EuroCities network, which represents 130 European cities, suggests “funding for integration must reach the local level without filters or barriers”.

“Cities must be able to determine their priorities and target groups, as they know exactly what is needed in terms of integration,” the report argues.

The report highlights that slow reactions from national authorities to the massive influx of people have left cities at the forefront, without adequate budget and policies

Cities had to step in where national authorities failed to provide facilities and assistance for the asylum seekers.

The report notes that Helsinki, for instance, did not benefit from an €8 million EU emergency assistance to Finland. Yet the city had hired 100 extra staff to manage its seven reception centers, and allocated €10 million from its own budget to deal with the refugee crisis.

Another example is Athens, which had to apply for grants managed by the UN, which itself had received emergency assistance from the EU.

The report argues that integration must become a priority in Europe’s migration policy.

It recommends faster access to EU assistance. Member states governments are too slow in distributing funds it says. It adds that cities should benefit directly for emergency assistance, specifically from the EU’s Asylum Migration & Integration Fund.

It also argues that EU state aid limitations should be removed on affordable housing for asylum seekers.

Danes to appeal conviction for helping refugees

A Danish couple have been fined €3,000 for giving a lift to Syrian refugees, which judges deemed to be smuggling. They plan to appeal against the verdict in order not to set a precedent.

Opinion

Cities show leadership on Roma inclusion

Over the last seven years, some 10,000 EU citizens have arrived in Ghent from Bulgaria and Slovakia - among whom a majority is estimated to be Roma.

EU unveils €700m refugee fund with Greece in mind

The EU commission plans to spend up €700 million on refugee aid in member states over the next three years. "This assistance, to a great extent, will go to Greece," a senior official said.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us