OREANDA-NEWS. April 18, 2016.

Your Majesty,

Secretary-General, President, Ministers,

Dear friends,

I am happy to be with you today, and not only because we have an important subject to discuss. When we travel a long distance, to meet with colleagues and friends, we see our problems in a new light. We remember that our view of the world is one of many. And we regain a sense of perspective.

Today, Europe faces its greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. This crisis is testing our values, and it is testing our will. And it is reminding us that solidarity is not only a moral virtue but an essential part of our European Union. A European Union whose original mission – to promote peace and to promote prosperity – is as necessary as ever.

When one million refugees arrive on our shores, the only response is common and shared. No country can manage the task alone. No country can say it is not concerned. And, as we have seen time and again, unilateral action does not work, and it will never work.

Those who need our protection should be offered a safe and legal path. We must free them from the smugglers and their deathly trade. This has been a central part of our European strategy, and it is the essence of our recent agreement with Turkey.

Of course, this is only one part of our response. We have provided emergency assistance across the European Union – starting with Greece – and also beyond. We have pledged more than three billion euro to the displaced people of Syria and the neighbouring countries hosting millions of refugees. This funding is vital: it gives access to health, it gives access to education, and the hope of a better life. In 2015 and 2016, the European Union will have devoted more than ten billion euro to the refugee crisis as a whole.  

But this, I believe, is the moment to regain a sense of perspective. Even as we focus on the job in hand, we should pause to look up and to see the world around us.

First, because we forget that others are facing an even greater task. Your country, Your Majesty – Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are hosting more refugees as a percentage of their population than any EU country or the European Union as a whole.

Second, because there are 60 million displaced people on our planet, and most of them are hosted in a developing country with limited resources.

Third, because none of this is new. Countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America have protected millions of refugees for so many decades. Today I pay tribute to all those countries and the people who have offered shelter and comfort to those in need.

To regain a sense of perspective is to understand that migration is one of the defining challenges of our 21st century. We will be defined by how we respond.

Many of the factors that drive displacement – such as poverty, climate change, regional conflicts – have no patience for national borders. They are global challenges that require a coordinated response.

The European Union recently launched an Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, using 1.8 billion euro from the European Union budget. We want to promote development and security in strategic areas: the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and parts of North Africa.

This new initiative builds on years of experience. The European Union has a long history of working with partner countries to support displaced populations and vulnerable migrants. We see humanitarian and development support as part of one effort, which sees displacement not as a burden but mainly as an opportunity.

This is part of a wider effort. Between 2014 and 2020, our development programmes will devote more than 28 billion euro to African countries: supporting governance and security, sustainable agriculture, health, education and job creation.

To regain perspective is to understand that migration will affect all parts of our society.

In the coming years, Europe's economic and social model will call for new energy and new ideas from around the world. This is an opportunity, this is not a threat, and the sooner we accept it the better.

Only last week, the Commission published new ideas on how to attract the best talent through legal migration. Our Blue Card in Europe is not as well known as the Green Card, but we are ready to learn.

Ready to learn and ready to work with our partners around the world. Migration is part of every nation’s history; it will be part of our common future. With every passing year, the stability and prosperity of our regions are increasingly shared. Sometimes we lose this sense of perspective – and perhaps that is human – but we always win it back in the end.

Thank you.