LH Mikl-Leitner on the final day of the Europe Forum: "The fight against illegal migration is becoming a key issue for the Union"

Course correction called for in the European Union

"We cannot be a strong, self-confident Union if we cannot protect our external borders. The fight against illegal migration is therefore becoming a key issue for the European Union," said Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner on Saturday, the final day of this year's Wachau European Forum.

In a time of uncertainty and insecurity, of many major challenges, the European Union is very valuable, emphasised the Governor at the beginning: "It is responsible for the decades of peace and freedom within the community, it is responsible for the prosperity that has spread in all its countries." It is precisely the major challenges for which the European Union was formed: "This is what our community should be focussing on again. We need a European Union that does not get lost in the minutiae of ever new details, bans and requirements. We need a European Community that focuses on its strengths." To this end, Mikl-Leitner said that four guidelines for an "alliance of the sensible" had been defined as the substantive foundation: "Firstly, we must strengthen Europe's competitiveness against the USA and Asia. Secondly, we must make technological openness the top priority in European climate policy, as we must not play off climate protection against competitiveness in the fight against climate change. The 'Green Deal' must not become a 'deal breaker' for the economy. Climate protection is important, but so is the prosperity of our citizens." Her third point was: "We need to rein in bureaucrats and centralism - and see ourselves as a community of strong regions again." Fourthly, she emphasised: "We must significantly improve the protection of the EU's external borders."

Unprotected external borders are "perhaps the greatest threat to our community", said Mikl-Leitner. However, the fight against illegal migration has "nothing to do with xenophobia", she emphasised. On the contrary, Austria and Europe needed the influx of qualified labour: "But only according to clear rules, according to the needs of the economy and for the good of our society." In this context, the Governor referred to facts such as the fact that more refugees arrived in Europe last year than in 2015, that more than half of the refugees arriving in Europe have no grounds for asylum and that 2,500 people drowned at sea last year alone. "This shows that the current asylum system is not worth its name. The crisis of illegal migration needs a common solution more urgently than almost any other issue in Europe." This issue cannot be solved by one region or one country alone, which is why alliances need to be forged, said the Governor. She emphasised that we must now work together on new regulations in matters of asylum: "This ranges from functioning border protection to fast-track procedures at the EU's external borders to discussions about procedures in safe third countries."

Mikl-Leitner announced that "partners will be sought for these issues, at regional level, but also at member state level and in Brussels". In the past, the European Forum has often proven that it can take Europe a step further: "I am confident that we will succeed again this time. Let's fight together for a course correction in the European Union. For a Union that tackles the major challenges with common sense, that does what benefits people and what people expect from it."

Other speakers on today's final day of the 27th Wachau European Forum include the Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and the Austrian Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Live stream and the detailed programme online at: www.europaforum.at.