Statement of Ambassador Drahoslav Štefánek at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on Migration and Integration: Making migration and Integration Policies Future Ready

Paris 17 January 2020
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me first to express my gratitude to Secretary General Angel Gurria and Federal Councillor Keller-Sutter as the Chair on behalf of Switzerland for the invitation and congratulate them for the organisation of this ministerial meeting.

The Council of Europe, I represent here today brings together 47 European states representing over 800 million people. Founded in the aftermath of WWII, its core mandate is to defend and promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights, which oversees its implementation, constitute the cornerstone of the human rights protection system in Europe. Other Council of Europe instruments and bodies provide a wide range of standards aimed at protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and supervise their implementation. We support our member States to ensure that the human rights of all of those who come within their jurisdiction, including refugees and migrants, are protected.

What does this mean in the context of today’s ministerial theme? Migration and integration policies can only be future ready if they are founded on the principles of human rights and the rule of law. Integration is an intrinsic part of an efficient and human-rights proof immigration system.

In the Council of Europe, we see integration as a two-ways process: new arrivals must be ready to adapt to their new environment and the host society to accept newcomers with all their differences. This is our old policy paradigm and we believe should be the basis for any innovation as regards integration. According to this model, migrants are seen beyond their needs and they are considered as people with resources, not with deficits. These integration activities encourage interaction between local communities, including religious organisations, and newcomers can help to break down prejudices and foster mutual understanding. Measures promoting access to the labour market, recognition of academic qualifications and opportunities for language-learning facilitate the integration process. In the framework of the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Network (ICC) we put in place a number of tools to facilitate a strategic approach to intercultural integration. ICC policy labs bring together cities and representatives of the central government with a view to promoting effective multi-level governance to integration. The European Qualifications Passport for Refugees provides refugees with an assessment of qualifications, a basis for such assessment to be accepted across borders and to access education and employment.

In the Council of Europe, we have developed multiple standards already, but we face increasing challenges to implement them. I am sure we are not alone. We, international organisations must unite our forces and engage in real partnerships to support our member states to develop capacities to fight migration and integration related challenges. It is our duty to prove that effective multilateralism is not just a slogan. The Council of Europe remains a reliable partner in the work ahead of us.

I thank you for your attention!

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