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Migration and Home Affairs
News article25 April 2024Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs4 min read

Commissioner Johansson’s plenary speech on the Pact on Migration and Asylum

Pact plenary - Johansson

Dear President, honourable members,

Migration is about human beings, men, women, and children. And when our migration policies fail, human beings pay the price. It's time to fix our broken migration policy. Our citizens expect us to protect people fleeing war and persecution. They expect us to welcome people who come legally for work or study. But, at the same time, expect us to prevent irregular arrivals and deadly journeys. And to swiftly return those who don't have the right to stay. And this is what the Pact on Migration and Asylum is all about. The Pact will help us to protect people, to protect our borders and manage migration in an orderly way.

I would like to thank all the rapporteurs, the shadows, and your staff. The political agreement on the table is an amazing achievement. It's a true compromise for sure. I especially would like to thank the EPP, S&D & Renew groups for your intense efforts. Thank you for the courage to compromise. It's essential to show that courage also today in the vote. The vote will be a close one. This is a now or never moment. This moment will not come back. History is watching. And our voters are watching.

Today's vote is about four years of legislative work. No, it's in fact about eight years of legislative work. When we presented the Pact four years ago no-one was really passionate about it. But no one fully rejected it either. And the same truth holds today. After the four years you have worked on these proposals, you have improved it. The agreement once again shows Europe can deliver for its citizens. And now it's time to take responsibility. Four years ago, the blockage was in the Council – now the decision is in your hands. And it's an all or nothing decision. All files must pass. Or no files will pass.

The last four years we have met so often here in the Plenary to discuss our EU action on migration challenges. Shipwrecks with massive loss of life. Catastrophic fires. In Lipa. In Moria. Sudden increase of arrivals. In the Canaries, in Lampedusa. Every time the conclusion was: we need a European response. Every time we thought it couldn't get any more difficult, it suddenly did. Covid. Lukashenko's attempt to create a crisis by instrumentalising migrants. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Humanitarian admissions and resettlement of people most at risk. Russia's war of aggression.

We are now hosting more than four million Ukrainian refugees. We did not let these crises overwhelm us. And you know what I realised? The more challenging the crisis. The more European our response. We did not allow these crises to distract us. All those years your patient work of lawmaking continued. The Blue Card – unblocked after many years. The Asylum Agency – unblocked. 44 trilogue negotiations on the Pact. And I attended almost all of them. And now we finally have on the table a comprehensive European approach on migration. With uniform EU rules on asylum procedures.

Screening at the border. Quicker protection for those likely to be granted asylum. And quicker returns for those who don't have the right to stay. New safeguards to protect vulnerable people. Especially minors and families with children. Clear rules to prevent overcrowded reception centres. New, robust, and independent monitoring mechanisms to uphold rights at the border. And for the first time ever: mandatory solidarity. Support to Member States under pressure will no longer be optional or improvised.

In a few hours you will vote. This is your moment. You are the legislators. Our citizens are watching. A vote for the Pact will bring real change for the better. It shows Europe can compromise; Europe can manage also huge challenges. If the vote on the Pact fails, we all fail. The world is also watching. Whenever I go to third countries, they say: “So you come here to discuss migration? Why don't you put your own house in order first?”. Now we can put our house in order. In February I attended the Munich Security Conference. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, was asked: If there is single thing you can wish for to be implemented next year for better migration, what would that be? He said: the Pact. And Europe is watching. With the Pact we can manage one of Europe's biggest challenges: Migration. In a sustainable way. Based on our values.

Now I will ask you to take the final and vital step: And vote for the Pact. As some of you know I like football very much. So let me put it like this. We are in the finals. Everything is at stake. We are not watching from the stands. We are on the pitch. The ball is rolling. Now is the time to come together as a team and to score for Europe. It can take years until we are in the final again. If ever. We have this one opportunity. And we have to take it.

Find out more

Pact on Migration and Asylum – Commission policy page

MEPs approve the new Migration and Asylum Pact

Migration and asylum pact – EU Council


Publication date
25 April 2024
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs