Today, 12 unaccompanied minors swept onto Greek Aegean islands by the waves of migration are departing to be relocated in the heart of Europe. Luxembourg – a firm friend of Greece and staunch supporter of the European Union – is the first country to actively respond to the Greek government’s initiative calling on its European partners to accept unaccompanied minors from Greece.
The fundamental values of European civilization oblige us to provide special care for these youngsters. This was the shared humanitarian responsibility Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis championed when he made it his priority to protect these children. Thus, the prime minister of Greece acted as a committed advocate of European principles and values.
Athens and Luxembourg persevered in their effort to mitigate the disproportionately heavy burden Greece is shouldering in the migration crisis.
Understandably, many people will see the 12 children leaving for Luxembourg as but a tiny portion of the many migrant children living alone in Greece. And in terms of absolute numbers, this is certainly the case. However, this modest beginning takes on a somewhat larger, more hopeful aspect when considered in terms of Luxembourg’s population of just 600,000 – the second smallest population in the EU, after Malta’s. Some people may call it a drop in the ocean. We see it as a ray of hope in the fog.
We have opened the way, made a start behind which our other partners can fall into step – larger, more powerful partners with populations many times that of Luxembourg.
We have created a positive momentum that in itself is a strong argument for due solidarity with Greece, a country that just a month ago resolutely and effectively protected Europe’s border.
The two of us who signed this text – a politician from the European North and another from the South – believe firmly in the need for a united Europe, a more effective Europe. This is why we believe in the great value of two fundamental and interwoven principles: fair burden-sharing and effective solidarity. Principles that we will strive to enshrine in the new European policy on migration and asylum.
Today, we are acting on this commitment. Complex procedures and cumbersome bureaucracy, time-consuming administrative regulations and the necessary substantive guarantees of security for minors were negotiated flawlessly, quickly and effectively.
Strong will and close cooperation both brought about today’s result. Some will say that relocating just 12 unaccompanied minors means very little. But we insist that today’s achievement is of broader importance because, in spite of the small number, this is a strong message; it sets a shining example.
And our efforts won’t stop here. We’re just getting started.
With a pandemic threatening public health, the economy and our citizens’ confidence in Europe’s ability to cope, what we achieved today proves that solidarity can be more than a vague pledge or a token family photo after a European Council meeting.
We have shown that solidarity is in fact a firm, conscious, active stance. Together, in these hard times, we can responsibly ensure unity and a better future for Europe and its peoples.
Jean Asselborn is minister of foreign and European affairs and minister of immigration and asylum of Luxembourg and George Koumoutsakos is Greece’s alternate minister for migration and asylum policy.