Sunday

13th Jun 2021

Pope Francis to EU: Migrants are not criminals

  • Pope Francis scolded EU leaders for seeking short-term political gains, rather than long-term visions (Photo: European Commission)

Pope Francis urged Europeans on Friday (6 May) to welcome migrants, tear down walls built to keep them out, and follow a socially more just economic policy.

Accepting the EU’s Charlemagne Prize in Rome for his contribution to European integration, the Argentinian pontiff asked in a powerful speech: “What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom?”

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In a clear message to European leaders in the audience, among them German chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the EU's Council, Commission, Parliament and central bank, the 79 year-old pope emphasised that Europe was struggling to live up to the vision of its founders.

Pope Francis praised the founders of European integration who “dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction … [and] dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.”

He suggested that today’s leaders were interested in quick fixes and short-term political gains.

Quoting from Nobel laureate writer Elie Wiesel, he said Europe needed a "memory transfusion" to go back to the founders’ values.

“Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading. We, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there,” he said.

The fourth non-European to receive the Charlemagne Prize, the pope didn’t mince words when it came to criticising Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis.

He said Europe had always had a multicultural identity and that it required a culture of dialogue and the “respect [of] the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”

The pope said he dreamed of a Europe in which “being a migrant is not a crime.”

“Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls,” he said, referring to the fences and barriers Austria and Hungary have built since the migration influx started last year.

“Time is teaching us that it is not enough simply to settle individuals geographically: the challenge is that of a profound cultural integration,” he added.

Francis also called for a fairer, more inclusive economic system that enables young people to have a say in their future.

“If we want to rethink our society, we need to create dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people,” he said.

He stressed that Europe needed to move towards a social economy that includes guarantees for the less well-off and serve the many, not the few.

Francis is the first Argentinean to receive the prize, founded in 1949. Past recipients include US president Bill Clinton, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, US general George C Marshall.

EU is 'aged and weary', pope says

Pope Francis has criticised the EU's treatment of migrants, its institutions, and its focus on growth and consumerism.

Consume less to save planet, Pope says

The religious leader called on consumers to use their economic power to force businesses to change towards cleaner production methods.

EU to ease access for skilled migrants

EU planning to revive its US-type scheme for admitting skilled workers from overseas, underlies that ageing EU societies need young foreigners.

Human smuggling to EU worth €5bn a year

Up to 40,000 suspects involved in "multinational business", Europol and Interpol said. Migrants "increasingly" targeted for labour and sexual exploitation.

News in Brief

  1. EU top court fast-tracks rule-of-law case to October
  2. Hungary's Fidesz wants to ban LGBTIQ content for under-18s
  3. MEPs join EU citizens on farm-animal cage ban
  4. Council of Europe urges Russia to release Navalny 'immediately'
  5. China's anti-sanctions law alarms EU businesses
  6. Airlines seek to water down EU passengers' rights
  7. EU leaders join call for further probe into Covid origins
  8. Liberal MEPs under fire over Babiš abstention

EU rejects UN blame for migrant sea deaths

Last week, the UN high commissioner for human rights said the EU and its member states are partly responsible for making the central Mediterranean more dangerous for asylum-seeker hopefuls. The EU rejects that - despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

EU defends Spain, after thousands enter Ceuta enclave

Spain has warned of a "serious crisis" for Europe after some 6,000 people entered Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco. The European Commission has voiced its support for Spain as diplomatic tensions with Rabat heat up.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU urges Poland to step back from 'legal primacy' clash
  2. Pressure builds on EU to back WTO vaccine-patent waiver
  3. EU anti-fraud agency cracked down on fake pandemic supplies
  4. MEP office expenses kept secret on dubious evidence
  5. What the EU public think of EU pesticide regulation
  6. MEPs set to take EU Commission to court on rule-of-law
  7. EU takes legal action against Germany on bonds ruling
  8. MEPs demand new EU biodiversity law by next year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us