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17-05-2024 10:43

Joint Statement: Ministerial Summit on External Dimension of Migration: the question on Syria

Nicosia, 16-17 May 2024

On the occasion of the Ministerial Summit held in Nicosia, Cyprus, on 16-17 May 2024, participating Member States in the Summit, namely Austria, Czech Republic, Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland, reinstate their common commitment in strengthening their joint efforts in addressing the challenges stemming from irregular migration. Thus, we have agreed on the following elements, as part of a realistic and sustainable approach on the external dimension of the Union’s migration policy, with particular focus on Syria and the overall dynamics:

-       The recent adoption of the Pact on Migration and Asylum undisputedly marks the beginning of an effort to achieve a common EU response to migration and asylum challenges. However, the effectiveness of our migration policies depends considerably on the decisions taken and the actions undertaken within the framework of the external dimension of migration. The reform of EU migration and asylum policy must therefore continue with a reinforced focus on the external dimension of migration.

-       Irregular migration, human smuggling, instrumentalisation of migrants and hybrid threats against the Union, including those induced by foreign governments, cannot be tolerated. We have been entrusted in safeguarding and preserving the principles of our Union, and that including respect to the core values of life, international law and international humanitarian law. Decisions as to who has the right to cross a Member State’s borders, should be taken by the Government of the relevant Member State and not by criminal networks engaged in migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings. The tragic loss of life at sea must come to an end, while at the same time smuggling and trafficking networks must be dismantled and those responsible brought to justice.

-       We reaffirm the need to step up our common efforts in relation to the external dimension of migration and identify realistic actions to be pursued, following the Conclusions of the Special Meeting of the European Council on the 9th of February 2023. The recent regional geopolitical developments constitute an additional reason for finding constructive ways to address the challenges we face. We acknowledge the burden of our third country partners which have received a large number of displaced persons due to their geographical location, and their important role acting as the last rampart prior to the irregular arrival of migrants in the Union. We emphasize on the need for the provision of support to them, with a view to bolster their capabilities, including by means of equipment, training, and other forms of cooperation, in their efforts to address irregular migratory flows and to provide protection.

-       We firmly believe that existing cooperation and capacity building with Lebanon, must continue and the EU support should be further enhanced, to mitigate the risk of even greater flows from Lebanon to the EU. Therefore, we welcome the latest announcement by the President of the Commission, following her visit in Lebanon. This constitutes a first immediate step into the right direction.

-       In this framework, the case of Syria comes to the forefront and we have to consider the evolved situation in the country. We fully embrace the necessity to offer support to those in need, in accordance with our obligations under international law. It is indisputable that since the conflict broke out in 2011, and in the following years of harsh military activities, the Syrian population fleeing abroad was rightfully granted international protection in accordance with the applicable rules of international law. However, many dynamics have since then changed and, thirteen years later, while acknowledging that complete political stability has not yet been achieved, situation in Syria has considerably evolved.

-       In light of the above, participating Member States agree on the need to re-evaluate the situation, taking into account the dynamics in and around Syria, with the aim of exploring an adjusted approach that will include more effective ways of handling the issue, on the basis of the relevant Conclusions of the European Council of April, 17th, which reaffirmed the need to achieve conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns of Syrian refugees, as defined by UNHCR. To this end, the discussions during this Summit constitute a significant step forward in the ongoing assessment of the situation in Syria, and may lead to a wider debate in the handling of the cases and the decision practice concerning the provision of international protection to people arriving from Syria.

-       Participating Member States declare their commitment to continue working towards this direction in the immediate future, in full respect of international and EU law.