The situation concerning economic, social and cultural rights is quite patchy in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Although some countries, in the wake of what has been called the Arab spring, drew up new constitutions enshrining some of these rights in legislation for the very first time, the rights have not always been respected. In certain other countries, these rights have been weakened since 2011.The aim of this information report would be to give an overview of the current situation as regards economic, social and cultural rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region, as well as pinpointing new avenues for work in the future. This report would be submitted at the Euromed Summit of Economic and Social Councils and would enable us to work together with our counterparts from the Mediterranean countries.
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The EESC believes that the current framework for international ocean governance is unable to ensure the sustainable management of oceans and their resources, and urgent action is imperative. However, the Commission and the High Representative still need to prioritise the threats currently faced by our oceans in order to adequately reflect the urgent need for action. One of the causes of ineffective international ocean governance is the existence of gaps in the current international ocean governance framework. The EESC recommends that the Commission and High Representative address these gaps and inconsistencies, but also that they increase compliance with existing rules, for example by improving the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. The EU should refrain from proposing any new legislation when better or more coordinated implementation of existing rules and regulations would be more efficient.
The EESC points out that a non-immigration scenario in Europe would mean among other things that Member States' economies would suffer substantially; demographic challenges would be aggravated; pension systems might become unsustainable; racism and xenophobia would flourish even more than at present. Non-integration bears economic, socio-cultural and political risks and costs. Hence, investment in migrant integration is the best insurance policy against potential future costs, problems and tensions.
The Committee supports the European Commission proposal for the creation of a Union Resettlement Framework and calls for a genuine common asylum policy that respects European values. It calls for the common criteria for resettlement to focus on people's need for protection, not on the third country's effective cooperation on asylum and it considers the "first country of asylum" and "safe third country" concepts to be open to question due to the current unsafe and unstable situation in the third countries and regions concerned. The Committee calls for the resettlement programme to be uncoupled from partnership agreements that aim to encourage third countries to prevent refugees from fleeing, as this carries the risk of infringing international law and fundamental rights.
In this opinion the EESC supports further harmonisation of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and welcomes the proposed improvements. However, it is concerned about some limitations of fundamental rights of asylum seekers. It sets out specific recommendations on the three proposals for: the Qualification Regulation, the Common Procedure Regulation and the Standards of Reception Directive, taking into account the human rights perspective, in line with the opinion on CEAS Reform I.
An efficient reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is essential. While the EESC approves of the proposal to improve and speed up the determination of Member State responsible for examining an asylum application, it calls for including protective provisions on procedural issues, individual treatment of applications, maintenance of discretionary clauses, maintenance of the deadline for the cessation of obligation for a Member State to assume responsibility and the rights of applicants.
EU Member States face the arrival of many refugees, who need to be integrated into the host societies once their protected status is granted. The EESC is convinced that integration is a necessity for the preservation of social cohesion. This exploratory opinion, drawn up at the request of the Dutch Presidency of the EU, clarifies the meaning of "integration" and looks at comparability with previous refugee movements, successful integration measures applied in the various EU member states, and the financing of integration measures for refugees, resulting in a set of best practices and recommendations.
On 13 May, the European Commission presented a European Agenda on Migration outlining the immediate measures that will be taken in order to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean as well as the steps to be taken in the coming years to better manage migration in all its aspects. The EESC welcomes the Commission's "European Agenda on Migration", which it believes symbolises a new-found understanding of the need to address migration at a European level, and encourages the Member States to collectively support the implementation of this Agenda.