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NEWS | Wednesday, 15 July 2009

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‘Legal channel’ for immigration might be a solution – Sweden

Ulla Gudmundson, Sweden’s Ambassador to Malta, suggested in an informal meeting with the media yesterday that a ‘legal channel’ for economic migrants might alleviate the problems associated with irregular immigration into Europe.
“It would be better to have a legal channel for those who just want a better life because we need the labour force anyway: not only those who are being persecuted in their own countries, but those who want to come here to work,” she said while referring to the Stockholm Programme.
Sweden took over the EU Presidency from the Czech Republic for the next six months on July 1. Although the country holds less than 2% of the European Union population it seems adamant to take the bull by the horns.
“We are going through a challenging time. We chose five priorities for our Presidency. However, the sixth was imposed automatically. At the moment the catch phrase is: ‘taking on the challenge’,” the Swedish Ambassador smiled.
Their six priorities are: institutional issues, which also entail having a more positive relationship with other countries, such as the US and neighbouring non-EU countries; climate change; the economic crisis; implementing the Stockholm Programme, which includes a more consistent policy for asylum seekers in all member countries; improving the environmental problems of the Balkan Sea; and finally, to strengthen the EU as a global actor.
With regard to climate change, Sweden would like to see a 30% reduction in emissions by 2020, although Gudmundson believes it is going to be hard due to the economic crisis. However, the aim is to “try to rally the members to sign up to a new UN global warming treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen in December”, which would replace the Kyoto Protocol on reducing carbon emissions expiring in 2012.
The EU Presidency’s aim is also to get countries like China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to cooperate in implementing Kyoto.
Turnin to immigration, she also talked about trying to work on long-term solutions by working with the countries immigrants are migrating from such as Somalia and Sudan, the counter countries such as Libya, repatriation and reintegration.
“All of us have to take part of the responsibility. There must be more European cooperation in the migration area. Those who do not agree with taking immigrants in a mandatory way will not vote for it.”
Sweden could not understand why Malta did not vote for the directive that would have granted the residents’ rights to immigrants with protection status. “With this directive the immigrants can go to any EU country after some years,” Gudmundson said.
She also mentioned there will soon be a new Commission. Having re-elected Jose Manuel Barroso for a second five-year term means establishing more stability.
She also spoke about the possibility of having the six month rotating presidency developing into two and a half years, if the members vote for it.
If not, “it means our time will be dedicated to sorting it out”.


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