Pittella: EU must overcome fear to turn migration crisis and UK referendum into an opportunity

S&D Group leaders visit London on 14 March to discuss UK referendum, Tanja Fajon, Maria João Rodrigues, Isabelle Thomas, Kathleen Van Brempt, Josef Weidenholzer, Péter Niedermüller, Glenis Willmott, Britain Stronger In and Labour In campaigns, Gianni Pitt

Following the debate in the Strasbourg Plenary about the preparations for the upcoming European Council meeting of 18 and 19 February, the president of the Socialists and Democrats, Gianni Pittella, stated:

"Europe must overcome fear in order to turn the migration crisis and the UK referendum from a great risk for the disintegration of Europe into an opportunity to relaunch and rebuild a common European project. We are confident that the negotiations will be fruitful in achieving our major goal: to keep the UK in the EU. We should not be afraid to say to the British people, regardless of the final outcome of the negotiations, that the advantages of being a member of the EU far outweigh the disadvantages. This is particularly true for British workers and for the least well off members of society. Our Group will be very careful in assessing that no harm will be done to the fundamental values and principles the EU is based on. But our message is simple and clear: we want a strong UK in a stronger EU.

"We should also not be afraid to say that the virus of racism and xenophobia is spreading everywhere in Europe and that this virus is indirectly fed by the incapability of Europe to deliver with the migration crisis. EU governments must break down the blackmail of the populists and finally assume their responsibilities. The solutions have been put on the table by this Commission and we must recognise that Schengen is part of the solution to this crisis, not the problem. We will overcome our citizens' fear only by delivering a common European strategy. This is the only way to remove the gun populists that are pointing at Europe's head."