An unprecedented, pan-European appeal has been made to European leaders meeting in Brussels today (Thursday) for action to end the drownings of refugees. The letter is signed by a former President, three former Prime Ministers and six Foreign Ministers. It is supported by captains of business.

Italy RefugeesThe signatories have written to EU Heads of Government in advance of a crucial summit in Brussels today (Thursday).

They have strongly criticised the current EU plan urging “EU Heads of State and Government to go beyond the ten-point plan issued earlier this week in immediately restoring an expansive search and rescue operation in Mediterranean waters with a mandate and level of funding that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us.”

They add that the death toll is “a stain on the conscience of our continent”. The letter concludes that while a broad strategy is needed “the starting point of the European response to the recent surge in migrant deaths must be recognition that we cannot allow such terrible events to afflict those trying to reach our shores.”

Signatories include Vaira Vike-Freiberga,  Former President of Latvia; Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister of Sweden; Chris Patten, Former EU Commissioner and Governor of Hong Kong; George Soros Founder and Chairman of the Open Society Foundations; Massimo D’Alema, Former Prime Minister of Italy;  Javier Solana, Former NATO Secretary General & EU High Representative;  Bernard Kouchner, Former French Foreign Minister; Ana Palacio Former Foreign Minister of Spain; Andrzej Olechowski, Former Foreign Minister of Poland; Emma Bonino, former Foreign Minister of Italy.

Statement to Europe’s Heads of State and Government:

“Migration is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive and long-term approach, but the first priority for European leaders must be to stop the death toll that is a stain on the conscience of our continent. The events of recent weeks in the Mediterranean show that stopping search and rescue has not dissuaded migrants, but vastly increased the numbers of deaths. According to UNHCR, over 1,600 migrants have died in 2015 while trying to make the crossing.

We call on the EU Heads of State and Government to go beyond the ten-point plan issued earlier this week in immediately restoring an expansive search and rescue operation in Mediterranean waters, with a mandate and level of funding that match the humanitarian emergency that confronts us.

The wave of migration from North African shores is fuelled by turmoil and conflict across the Middle East and the Sahel, and amplified by the breakdown of state authority in Libya. The EU is rightly committed to do what it can to help reverse these developments, but there will be no easy or short-term solution. In the meantime, the EU must accept that attempts at migration will continue on a large scale and develop a range of measures that reflect our values and responsibilities, including:

  • Restore and expand search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean with the requisite mandate and level of funding.
  • Set up a system of relocation within the EU to reduce the weight of the burden falling on a handful of member states.
  • Substantially increase the UNHCR quota system, to be applied on an equitable basis.
  • Ensure to the extent possible that legal channels to access asylum procedures are open in countries of origin or transit.
  • Promote and fund the temporary accommodation of refugees outside the EU through the construction of safe and decent facilities in third countries.
  • Launch a cooperative law enforcement effort to break trafficking networks, confiscate or destroy their assets and prosecute those involved.

Measures such as these are necessary to ensure that the EU’s approach to the complex challenge of migration is sustainable, equitable and humane. However the starting point of the European response to the recent surge in migrant deaths must be recognition that we cannot allow such terrible events to afflict those trying to reach our shores.”

 The following people have signed the letter:

Chris Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University; former EU Commissioner

George Soros, Founder & Chairman, Open Society Foundations

Massimo D’Alema, former Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister, Italy

Carl Bildt, former Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister, Sweden

John Bruton, former Taoiseach, Ireland,

Bernard Kouchner, former Foreign Minister, France

Emma Bonino, former Foreign Minister, Italy

Ana Palacio, Member of the Council of State and former Foreign Minister, Spain

Teresa Gouveia, former Foreign Minister, Portugal

Andrzej Olechowski, former Foreign Minister, Poland

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia

Senem Aydin, Jean Monnet Chair, Istanbul Bilgi University

Roland Berger, Founder, Roland Berger Foundation

Stine Bosse, Chair of the Board, BankNordik Group

Gunilla Carlsson, former International Development Minister, Sweden

Tibor Dessewffy, President, Demos Hungary

Andrew Duff, former Member of the European Parliament

Tanja Fajon, Member of the European Parliament

Karin Forseke, Alliance Trust Plc

Lykke Friis, Prorector, University of Copenhagen; former Minister for Climate and Energy, Denmark

Charles Grant, Director, Centre for European Reform

Dzema Grozdanova, Chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, Bulgarian Parliament

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, CEO & President, International Crisis Group

Ulrike Guérot, Founder & Director, European Democracy Lab

Heidi Hautala, Member of the European Parliament; former Minister for International Development, Finland

Danuta Huebner, Member of the European Parliament

Jaakko Iloniemi, former Ambassador, Finland

Caio Koch-Weser, Vice-Chiarman, Deutsche Bank Group

Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative

David Koranyi, Director, Eurasian Energy Futures, Atlantic Council

Ivan Krastev, Chair of Board, Centre for Liberal Strategies

Mark Leonard, Director, European Council on Foreign Relations

Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence

Irene Lozano, Member of the Congress of Deputies, Spain

Joseph Misfud, Director of the London Academy of Diplomacy

Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process

Hedvig Morvai, Executive Director, European Fund for the Balkans

Kalypso Nicolaidis, Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

Daithi O’Ceallaigh, former Ambassador, Ireland

Dick Oosting, CEO, European Council on Foreign Relations

Mabel van Oranje, Chair of Girls Not Brides – The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage

Zaneta Ozolina, Professor of International Relations, University of Latvia

Tobias Raffel, Member of the Executive Board, Roland Berger Foundation

Albert Rohan, former Ambassador, Austria

Daniel Sachs, CEO, Proventus

Aleksander Smolar, Chair of the Board, Stefan Batory Foundation

Volker Stanzel, former Ambassador, Germany

Ion Sturza, Founder & Chairman, Fribourg Capital

Hannes Swoboda, former Member of the European Parliament

Nathalie Tocci, Deputy Director, Istituto Affari Internazional

Loukas Tsoukalis, Professor, University of Athens and President, ELIAMEP

Andre Wilkens, Author

Stelios Zavvos, Chair of SolidarityNow and Founder & CEO, Zeus Capital Managers