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Van Rompuy defends open borders and immigration

Published on 09/11/2013

European Union president Herman Van Rompuy warned against populism and defended the EU's open borders in a speech in Berlin on Saturday.

"Populism and nationalism cannot provide answers to the challenges of our times," said the European Council president, speaking at an annual event in the German capital on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Rompuy said he understood the concerns EU citizens had over globalisation and the financial crisis but stressed the only solution was economic growth and job creation, not blaming immigrants from other EU countries.

"Catchwords like ‘benefit tourism’ and ‘social dumping’" should not be used against immigrants, he said, referring to criticisms often targeted at Romanians and Bulgarians.

Van Rompuy instead defended the EU’s open borders and celebrated them as "a sign of civilisation".

The EU leader said immigrant tragedies such as the two recent shipwrecks that claimed more than 400 lives off the Italian island of Lampedusa should be combatted by attacking the root of the problem in the countries of origin.

This way, a "Post-Wall Europe" could be built and the EU could become a homeland for its citizens, he said.