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Last month, actually less than one month ago, we met in Luxembourg with the Foreign Ministers and the Interior Ministers together, just a few hours after the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea. Today we have had a long day of work with the Defence and Foreign Ministers together. It was the first time after quite some years – I think the last one was in 2012 – that we have had a joint meeting of Defence and Foreign Ministers.
We had on the agenda first of all the preparation of the June European Council on the Common Security and Defence Policy. We had a discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on our cooperation and our common work on the new security strategy of the European Union. After this press conference we will continue, with Foreign Ministers only, to discuss the Middle East Peace Process just before my trip to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Wednesday and Thursday.
One point of our common agenda, Defence and Foreign ministers together, was the follow-up of the special European Council we had on 23 April. It asked for quick, urgent action on European level to face the tragedies at sea in the Mediterranean, that represent both a humanitarian and a security challenge, first of all for Europe but also for the region, for the Arab world and also for the African countries. Heads of State and Government, less than one month ago, stated the need to act urgently and jointly as Europeans. The need to act is clearly on different levels, with a plurality of actions, with a plurality of elements.
And we know very well, we discussed this with the Ministers today again, that not one single action will be effective alone. All elements are important, in connection with each other. That is why we talk about a comprehensive approach where all different parts of our action are relevant. Saving lives at sea - that is why we decided to reinforce Triton and Poseidon - and also on land; working on the root causes, in partnership with our partners in the African Union and in the Arab world, and in particular working on poverty, wars, crises. And dismantling the criminal networks that are smuggling and trafficking people. All of these in a comprehensive way – with some internal actions and some external actions.
The internal actions are obviously under the direct responsibility of, on the Council side, the Interior ministers. On the Commission side, the EU agenda on migration was adopted as you know last week. Commissioner Avramopoulos shared with us this presentation today. But the focus today was obviously on the external part of our work to implement the decisions taken at the European Council in April.
On external action, we have three different elements:
First, increased partnership with the African Union, with countries of origin and transit - just yesterday we were discussing it with Turkey, increasing the level of cooperation on managing flows of migrants.
Second, the decision to increase our presence with the already existing CSDP missions and operations. EUCAP Sahel Niger has been discussed and it has been decided already to increase our presence there last week.
And the last element, among many others, that the Heads of State and Government asked of me last month: to prepare a possible CSDP operation to dismantle the business model of trafficking organisations in accordance with international law.
Today, less than one month later, we have adopted the "Crisis Management Concept" and the decision to establish the operation with headquarter in Rome and with Commander, Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino. The operation will consist of four phases. The decision we have just taken to establish the operation will be public so you will have the chance of looking at that yourself. This will allow us to start the operational planning with the Commander and in the headquarter and to prepare for the launch of the operation itself. Hopefully already at the next Foreign Affairs Council in June we might be ready to adopt the launch of the operation, on the basis of the recommendations of the preparatory work that the Commander will be doing in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, obviously, the work in the UN Security Council will continue in strong coordination with the EU Member States of the Security Council. We discussed obviously also about this. And I hope that in the meantime the Security Council's resolution under chapter 7 can be adopted so that by June, at the Foreign Affairs Council, we might have the legal framework for launching the operation in all its phases. You will look at the Council decision and you will see that not all the phases will require the Chapter 7 resolution. But obviously, as we refer to taking decision in accordance with the international law, for us it is extremely important to have that international framework in place and also a framework of cooperation with the Libyan authorities.
Let me stress one thing, and then I stop: I think this is an absolute record in terms of timing. Taking the decision to establish a European Union operation in less than one month is, I think, an absolute record in terms of time. It doesn't only mean that we have done a good team work, and I would like to thank all the services, not only in Brussels, but also in the capital cities and in good coordination with New York. This tells me most of all that when we have the political will and the determination to act quickly, we can do it. So the European Union can act together and can act in a fast proper way if the strong political will and the will to work together as a team, as Europeans, is there.
This is just the beginning of it, a decision to establish an operation means that this will now enable the operational planning to start, including the force generation. Then I hope the operation will be ready to be launched - and this will depend mainly on Member States - already in June.
Q. A number of your former colleagues, Foreign Affairs Ministers of many Members States, your colleague Mr Solana and others, asked you to review the approach towards the region, mainly to set a mandatory deadline for the agreement to establish the two-state solution, and also a kind of equivalence between Israel as a state, and Palestine to be a state also, so that on the negotiation table they could negotiate with each other. Ahead of your visit, what is your message to the Israeli Government? And what is your view on the need for a new European approach towards the Middle East Peace Process?
Thank you for the question. First of all, the main request of that letter, of that group of eminent people as they signed themselves, is to have a European Union focus on this. I would say, protagonism of the European Union on the Middle East Peace Process as such is something that I think we are already putting in place.
You will remember that my first visit after taking office was to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Gaza, and I think I will be the first one to visit the new Israeli Government, being there on Wednesday and Thursday. I am not completely sure, because I don't have the official schedule of the meetings of the Israeli Government, but in any case my very early visit has a political meaning. And the political meaning is that the European Union as such is ready and willing to play a major role in re-launching a Peace Process on the basis of the two-state solution.
So my main message to the region, to the interlocutors there will be - obviously now we will discuss it with the Foreign Ministers, so I will also listen to their views - this: count on the European Union to work with our partners in the region and the international community to support a re-start of the Peace Process, working closely with the US, with the UN, with Russia, in the Quartet, but also with the actors of in the region. And listening to their perspectives, to their intentions on how to overcome the status quo. Because I believe that one thing is clear to everybody in the region -that the status quo is not an option.
My message will be: European Union is there to play a role. The second message is: tell me what is your idea to overcome the status quo that in itself will not solve the situation, it might actually lead to further deterioration of the situation on the ground. I will be there to listen and to understand how we can help re-launching the process.
I will also be accompanied by our new EU Special Representative Fernando Gentilini, who will travel with me with a one-way ticket and stay in Jerusalem to continue the work.
Q. Both you and others today have talked about getting support for this operation from Libyan authorities. Can you give us a little bit of clarity on what kind of consent you are looking for, does it need to be backed by Tripoli and by Tobruk, in what form?
And secondly, I wondered if you have some concern, yes this has moved very quickly, but there is a lot of effort going on, this operation, which looks at one part of the migration problem, at the same time we have Islamic State seemingly spreading its influence within Libya. Does there need to be more done, does the EU need to start looking again about what to do about Islamic State in Libya?
When it comes to the partnership with Libyan authorities to tackle this issue: first of all, let me be very clear on this, I have done this publicly already, I have met with our Libyan counterparts, all of them, when I was visiting them in Tunis. We are looking for partnership in this, because there is a responsibility that the EU can take, but there is first of all, a responsibility that the Libyans themselves have to take on their territory, their borders, be it land borders or sea borders. We are looking for partnership. The work is underway, especially on the UN Security Council resolution to find a legal basis under Chapter 7 and for the work we will develop in the planning of the operation. This will take place in the UN framework -which is not the EU framework-, and work on a request from what is the legitimate Government sitting in the UN, which is Tobruk. But I would like to add, it is my firm conviction, and we share that with the Ministers, that we need to work also with other relevant authorities in Libya, being that of Tripoli, being that of Misrata, being that of the municipalities, because we will need to share responsibility and also to work together in concrete terms to dismantle the networks. And, obviously the municipalities in particular might have an important role to play in identifying and in cooperating with us in working on this from a very concrete point of view.
Let me also say that we are doing the work of the drafting of the resolution itself. It is the responsibility, in this moment of the UK, that is the penholder in the Security Council. We are coordinating in an incredibly positive way - I shouldn' t say incredibly probably - but in a very positive way, among the EU Member States, the ones sitting in the Security Council, the ones that are not sitting in the Security Council. Italy is playing a special role obviously in this. We are coordinating the work, but obviously it is the main responsibility of the EU Member States sitting in the Security Council to do the drafting, even if we coordinate a lot on this. And, to coordinate with the work of Bernardino Leon in this, because our main focus remains that of supporting the final steps, hopefully final steps, of the dialogue efforts. The very same visit I did in Tunis was done together with him to support the process that the UN is leading. And hopefully, this will be the perfect, closer to perfect, scenario to have a National Unity Government in Libya with whom we partner in this and also on the terrorist spread in the country.
I have said several times, there are two issues on which it is a matter for the European Union interest and urgency to work. One is the smuggling and trafficking of human beings through Libya, the other one is the spread of terrorist networks. We need to work, obviously, also on that. That is typical, once you move fast on one track, you are asked: shouldn't you go as fast on this track also on the other one. For sure, we also need to work on that, but again, there will be no real solution to the spread of Da'esh in Libya until we will have a Unity Government in the country. That is my firm conviction; this is also our common position. That is why we are doing this hand-in-hand with Bernandino and with the UN process.
Q. La distruzione dei barconi è ancora priorità della missione CSDP? Sull'allarme lanciato dal consigliere di Tobruk che tra i rifugiati nel Mediterraneo potrebbero nascondersi dei combattenti dell'Isis dopo un accordo fatto con gli scafisti vorrei sapere se avevate informazioni in questo senso.
Abbiamo analizzato il legame possibile e potenziale tra le organizzazioni dei trafficanti e le organizzazioni terroristiche, non posso confermare nessun tipo di collegamento a noi noto. È chiaro però che soprattutto il sistema di business dei trafficanti, il movimento di denaro intorno al traffico di esseri umani potrebbe andare a finanziare attività che potrebbero avvicinarsi ad attività terroristiche.
Rispetto alla distruzione dei barconi, quello a cui facciamo riferimento è nella terza fase dell'operazione, la prima fase riguarda la ricerca e condivisione di informazioni e di intelligence che sarà di per se' un elemento di deterrenza e un elemento fondamentale per passare alle successive fasi. C'è poi una seconda fase di blocco e ispezione dei barconi. C'è una terza fase che riguarda il rendere non utilizzabili i barconi. Come sapete il testo della dichiarazione finale del Consiglio Europeo parlava chiaramente di distruggere, c'è stata una discussione a questo riguardo, il punto fondamentale non è tanto la distruzione, il punto fondamentale è la distruzione del sistema di business dei trafficanti, del modello di business dei trafficanti, l'organizzazione stessa e chiaramente il rendere impossibile per le organizzazioni criminali che fanno soldi sulla disperazione della gente, riutilizzare gli strumenti attraverso i quali si arricchiscono e fanno morire le persone, quindi la concentrazione non è sulla distruzione delle barche, ma è sul rendere non riutilizzabili gli strumenti di morte.
Q. Ci sono stati dei distinguo, delle prese di distanze sul problema delle quote di rifugiati nella ripartizione. Volevo sapere dal suo punto di vista che margini ci sono di composizione trattandosi di un problema antico e ci sono posizioni consolidate. Oltre ciò, perché non si parla mai di immigrati clandestini? Ci stiamo concentrando sui rifugiati che sono un problema di alcuni Paesi, a partire dalla Germania, mentre sul problema degli immigrati clandestini che sono un problema egualmente grande per alcuni Paesi della fascia Mediterranea come l'Italia non vediamo al momento delle proposte concrete, quando si affronterà questa parte del problema?
Questa parte del problema, così come le altre sono contenute nell'agenda sull'immigrazione che è stata presentata e discussa dalla Commissione la scorsa settimana, dall'altra parte della strada, in Commissione. Anche perché ho tenuto a sottolineare all'inizio: qui oggi avevamo i Ministri degli Esteri e della Difesa e sarebbe stato ben strano se i Ministri degli Esteri e della Difesa oggi avessero deciso o discusso sia la questione dell'immigrazione irregolare sia la questione delle quote che è chiaramente competenza dei Ministri dell'Interno e del Commissario Avramopoulos. Questoinfatti è stato oggetto della discussione all'interno delCollege la settimana scorsa e sarà oggetto della discussione dei Ministri dell'Interno tra qualche settimana. È chiaro però, dal mio punto di vista, quello dell'azione esterna, è chiaro che quando i capi di Stato e di governo hanno concluso il consiglio il 23 aprile, chiedendo tra le altre cose anche una migliore condivisione della solidarietà e della responsabilità interna, hanno in qualche modo invitato la Commissione a fare una proposta che andasse in questa direzione. Posso dire che con i nostri interlocutori internazionali, a partire dalle Nazioni Unite, a partire dall'UNHCR, a partire dai nostri partner nell'Unione Africana, nel mondo arabo, mettiamo sul tavolo anche la presa di responsabilità maggiore dell'Unione Europea rispetto all'accoglienza e alla condivisone del peso dell'accoglienza, troviamo una reazione che riconosce una credibilità maggiore all'Unione Europea, anche perché stiamo parlando di alcuni Paesi, penso alla Giordania o al Libano, che ospitano un milione, un milione e mezzo di rifugiati e hanno una popolazione e un P.I.L. minore rispetto a quello di molti paesi europei. Dopodiché questo non significa, vorrei chiarirlo, che c'è una politica della porta aperta o che può esserci appunto una revisione in questo senso, tutt'altro. Si tratta semplicemente di dire: la priorità così come decisa dai capi di Stato e di governo il 23 aprile, quella di salvare vite umane, dobbiamo affrontare e porci il tema di cosa facciamo delle vite umane che salviamo, nel pieno rispetto della legalità internazionale, questo è un tema non per i Ministri degli Esteri e della Difesa, come ovvio, è un tema per i ministri dell'Interno, per i capi di Stato e di governo, quando abbiamo presentato l'agenda per l'immigrazione della Commissione, c'era una parte relativa a questo capitolo, c'è una consapevolezza che io vedo negli Stati Membri del fatto che è una risposta da dare. La proposta della Commissione sarà poi discussa non certo dai Ministri degli Esteri e della Difesa ma dai Ministri dell'Interno ovviamente.
Q. Two quick questions if I may. Did the Ministers agree to a general deadline for pledging their force generation contributions because that is traditionally what delays the actual launching of CSDP operations. So was there a deadline agreed? Secondly, there is no little risk thatgetting cooperation from your Libyan counterparts could drag well beyond June, so what were the political guidelines discussed today in terms of how close a CSDP operation could come to or go into Libya's territorialwaters?
You are right on the risk of delaying, that is why I said "hopefully" by the next Foreign Affairs Council, this is not in my hands. This will depend on the preparation, on the planning and on the force generation. And also on the legal framework path, on the work of the United Nations Security Council. But I would say that there is a clear sense of urgency in this respect, also because we all know very well that June is the beginning of summer, and in these operations, seasons are important. And as summer comes, more people are travelling, and we want to have, at least I would like to have, the operation in place as soon as possible, if it has to deter traffickers and smugglers organisations. On the rest, the planning that is going to start by tomorrow will go more in details.
Thank you and see you next time.
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