Paulo Batista Santos
Mayor of Batalha, Portugal
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by expressing my deep gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for the commitment and determination to protect refugees. Over the last two years, Europe and other regions of the world have been facing the largest mass displacement since World War II.
Pope Francis has been an unconvinced voice, constantly appealing for the solidarity of the international community and condemning the indifference and lack of accommodation that refugees face after crossing the sea to reach Europe. Thank you for your example and remarkable mission in today’s world.
I would also like to thank Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, for being co-convener of this European Mayor’s Summit, in which the Municipality of Batalha participates with great honor.
We have learned long ago that there is no humanitarian solution to humanitarian problems, the solution is always political. But now, we are also learning that humanitarian aid alone is not enough to meet the needs created by the scale of the crisis we are facing today.
“We need to make sure that we bring together the humanitarian and development actors”, as Mr. António Guterres, the next Secretary-General of the United Nations Organizations, stated in the beginning of this refugee crisis.
It is no longer a question of filling gaps. The humanitarians come first to address the emergencies and when things seem to be stabilized, the development actors come to assure the sustainability of what has been achieved.
We need to be together from the beginning, even before prevention, to bring a common response and create the conditions to bring solutions and to sustain them.
But we have also learned that refugee protection cannot be guaranteed if the rising needs, as well as the legitimate interests of the host communities, are not taken into account by the international community.
Ignoring these needs, interests and aspirations would promote the fatigue in the host community, raise tensions between different communities on the same territory and, of course, undermine the protection of the refugees themselves.
Never before has the expression “Think Global, Act Local” had the human dimension and the urgency in action, as in this purpose of inclusion and social cohesion of refugees and host communities, for them to live in harmony and create a win-win situation.
It is very important to have an integration agenda developed by the municipalities, the first step towards what I consider to be a comprehensive reform of the priorities and strategies of the cooperation policies developed by the European Union.
I believe that this must be an authentic strategy and not only the support of a number of small and medium-sized projects in the host communities. The European Union has a legal and moral obligation to protect those in need.
The ongoing European refugee support programs are insufficient and the reform of the Common European Asylum System is driven by ridiculous protectionism that does not respond to the flow of migrants who flee war and fight for their lives.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my country, there’s a popular saying that sometimes we have to change something so that everything remains the same.
We don’t want the European agenda for refugees to be the thing that changes so that everything remains basically the same: the business-as- usual, frequent in the cooperation policies of the European Union.
We must ensure that this is a crucial step for the future, and to do so the agenda for the refugees and the different emergency plans need to be fully funded and, above all, they need to be humanitarian, fair and in line with the founding values of the European Union.
As the authorities closest to the population, mayors must be able to meet the housing needs of migrants or refugees.
I believe mayors should lead this integration process with their example and ability to involve local communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally, I present the example of Batalha, a small municipality with 16,000 inhabitants, that felt it had the duty and a moral imperative to participate in the accommodation project of refugee citizens, creating the necessary conditions to accommodate the refugee citizens with humanity and dignity, providing the necessary resources and the various institutional partners and companies of the solidarity sector.
The project we call “Together for Humanity” aims to be an example of affirming a territory of citizenship, equality and solidarity. It also aims appeal to the European leaders that this is the time to recognize and face reality with courage and determination.
And, in order to better understand our spirit, our determination, I ask your attention to the brief documentary we have prepared for this Mayor’s Summit.
Thank you very much.