To the: President of the EU
Chairman of the EU Council
President of the EU Commission
Prime ministers of the EU member-states
Chairperson of the EU Social-Economic Committee
Prime ministers of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey
Let us inform you that the representatives of 40 activist and expert civil society organizations and think- tanks – all of them boldly committed and engaged in issues related to migration policies, their effective implementation and protection of human rights - from the countries situated along or concerned with the “Balkan migrant and refugee route” met in Belgrade on October 5th, 2015. They gathered to discuss the situation created in Europe by the latest waves of migrants, reconsider the present approaches toward migrants, refugees and displaced persons and their own work in the field, and to reflect on new approaches conducive to viable solutions remedying the situation of migrants and restoring the European solidarity.
Bearing in mind the consequences of the current refugee and migrant crisis and prospects for its further serious deterioration, the participating CSOs called for resolute actions and bold solutions so as to prevent the crisis from turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, avoid any further exacerbation in relations between the states and alleviate the extreme burden from the states which are particularly hit with the crisis - be they the countries of the first entry, so-called transit countries, or the country of preferred final destination.
They also called upon all pan-European organizations and sub-regional arrangements to act promptly so as to ensure that the international human rights and refugee law, particularly the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, are given priority in tackling the migration crisis. They also reminded that each and every individual state has a duty to carry out its respective migrants and refugee related national arrangements not only in accordance with the letter of international norms and customs, but also in line with their spirit and ultimate goal. They also called their own countries to work toward providing secure refuge for people on the move. The participating organizations expressed their will to direct their own work in that respect.
However, they reiterated the pivotal role the European Union has to play in finding viable solutions, knowing that its members are either the first stop on the migrants’ way to Europe, their intended destination, or their passage to safety. It should not be of the Union’s lesser concern that the migrants’ Balkan route goes through the EU (potential) candidate countries which should be ensured an active role in search of new approaches if they would be seen as part of the solution. It is of paramount importance that they take adequate part in all deliberations and processes of decision making, while their proposals should be taken into serious consideration. Therefore the conference participants propose to the Dutch government, taking over the Presidency of the EU as of January 1st 2016, to facilitate such an inclusive process. The process should encompass the debate on how to define “safe third countries” and eliminate all misunderstandings arising therefrom.
The principle of solidarity must guide the implementation of current international, European and national instruments aimed at protection of migrants, refugees and displaced persons. It also must be at the very core of all future arrangements and attitudes which at the short and medium run should ensure improved and effective protection of people on the move.
This is of particular importance for the European Union and its member states, bearing in mind that the solidarity was the guiding idea which led to the establishment of the Union and one of the main reasons why the countries which joined the EU after 2004 strived and worked hard to become its members. The sooner the European Union reinvigorates itself with the sense of solidarity, the sooner it will be capable to strengthen its more than ever needed role in solving the problems being the source and reason of this unprecedented migrant and refugee crisis.
The principle of solidarity should feature in the relations between the states, whether they are EU members or not, so as to avoid instability in any region of Europe such as the Western Balkans. In that respect the conference participants encouraged every action that could itself contribute, without external mediation, to the improvement of neighborhood relations or strengthen cooperation in solving the migrations related problems.
The participants have therefore strongly advised all the states along the Balkan migratory route to keep their borders open, respect the principle of non-refoulement and allow the refugees access to the asylum procedure. Also, they should all - including some EU members - revisit their respective national legislations and bring them in line with the EU acquis. It was underlined that such a move will immensely facilitate the position of the EU (potential) candidate countries in membership negotiations.
The participating organizations are fully aware that finding viable solutions for the present migrant and refugee crisis is nowadays closely linked with numerous and highly sensitive security, political and economic issues. However, migrants are first of all human beings and the systems of protection of migrants, refugees and displaced persons are aimed at protection of their basic human rights and civic freedoms, once again the values which are at the core of the very foundations of the EU and the constitutions of their member states. Therefore the protection of their human rights and improvement of their human situation must be given prevalence and also be seen as a tool of effectively preventing, containing and fighting terrorism and organized crime.
Done in Belgrade on the 5th of October 2015
Open Society Foundation, Serbia,
Jadranka Jelincic, Executive Director
Vladimir Petronijevic, Director
Asylum Protection Centre (APC/CZA), Serbia; ASTRA, Serbia; Atina, Serbia; Balkan Centre for Migration and Humanitarian Activities, Serbia; Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Serbia; Belgrade Centre for Security Policies, Serbia; Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Serbia; BHC – Refugees and Migrants Legal Protection Program, Bulgaria; Bulgarian Council on Refugees and Migrants; Croatian Law Centre; Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM), Montenegro; Centre for Peace Studies, Croatia; Centre for Investigative Journalism (CINS), Serbia ; Civil Rights Program Kosovo (CRPK); Foundation Open Society – Macedonia; Greek Council for Refugees; Group 484, Serbia; Humanitarian Centre for Integration and Tolerance (HCIT), Serbia; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; International Aid Network (IAN), Serbia; Initiative for Development and Cooperation (IDC) , Serbia; Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, Croatia; La Strada, Macedonia; The League of Roma Inclusion, Serbia; Legal Centre, Montenegro; Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA); Menedék - Hungarian Association for Migrants; Migrant Solidarity Group (MigSzol), Hungary; Multeci-Der (Association for Solidarity with Refugees), Turkey; Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre (NSHC), Serbia; Open Society Foundation, Serbia; Open Society Foundation, Turkey; Peace Institute, Slovenia; Praxis, Serbia; Refugee and Migrant Services in Albania, The Romanian National Council for Refugees; Street Aid Hungary; SYMβIOSIS, Greece; TRAG Foundation, Serbia; Vasa prava - Legal Aid Network, B&H; The Conference was also attended by: Balkan Trust for Democracy; project of GMS; Danish Refugee Council; Dutch Council for Refugees; European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE); HELVETAS Swiss Interco-operation, Jesuit Refugee Service, Norwegian Council for Refugees; Save the Children; OSFs Open Society Initiative for Europe.
Albania, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia