Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini ahead of the weekly European Commission College meeting

Bruxelles, 23/09/2015 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 150923_01

I have to say that after the Interior Ministers yesterday managed to take a decision on internal relocation, our strength and our energy on acting also on the external side is much stronger and much more credible. This is also part of the discussion we are having here today in particular with the work to finance more international agencies that are working on the ground with refugees especially the World Food Programme and the UNHCR to assist, to improve the assistance, the help to the refugees in the area - namely in Turkey, in Jordan, in Lebanon.  Our work with these partners in the Middle East, in North Africa, but also in Africa, is already going on. I was for instance visiting Niger and Algeria few days ago. I had meetings with ministers of all these countries in the last 10-12 days, increasing very much our partnership in managing on one side the refugee flows and on the other side the migration flows that is still staying as an important element of the phenomenon.

So today on the Commission side, we will do our part in suggesting to increase the financial contributions and with the series of the external actions that go exactly in line with the agenda we presented already in May and with the decision of the Council in the last months.

I expect that a good cooperation and synergy between the decisions of the Commission in this respect and those of Member States, which will allow us to be extremely effective in this field.

What could be the next concrete step forward, what could we wait from tonight's Council?

For sure this morning here in the Commission, the concrete steps forward on the external part is the proposal to increase the financial contribution to the international agencies assisting refugees on the ground. We are doing already a lot, we are the first donor worldwide, we are the first donor in the region.  We are ready to do more, we know it is our duty, it is our political duty, it is also our interest to invest in this work that we are doing with them in partnership. So the main decision today is the proposal to increase our financial contribution significantly.  Obviously tonight in the Council I will pass the same messages to the Member States, to be coherent and to pledge to contribute financially also to the work of these agencies and overall to the trust funds that we have established both for Syria and for Africa which concern migration and refugees in a substantial way. This will allow us to finance concrete projects that are already been identified that would help refugees and local hosting communities on the ground to make the situation more sustainable there.

On Turkey for the refugee crisis:

Dialogue with Turkey is ongoing at the highest possible level not since yesterday, but for months. I visited Turkey already in the first month of my mandate together with two other Commissioners, Stylianides for Humanitarian Aid and Hahn for Neighbourhood and Enlargement. We visited the camps back then, in Turkey, in Jordan and in Lebanon, so it is not something we are finding out now, it is something we are working on with our partners including Turkey since a long time. Let me stress: Turkey is a key partner in managing the flows, it's a key partner when it comes to host refugees. Let's never forget that Turkey hosts two million refugees, only part of them in camps, most of them in local communities. Our work is also focused on supporting local communities that are hosting refugees because we all know that this brings challenges to the health system, the education system, the economic and social structure of the country. So our work with Turkey is at the highest level not from now but since months, if not years. Just a few weeks ago I had a meeting with the new foreign minister of Turkey, our contacts are almost on a daily basis, I had him on the phone even yesterday, we work very closely together not only on the refugee issue but also on the Syrian crisis. We have contacts ongoing not only with Turkey but also with other countries on the region. I have just spoken on the phone with Staffan de Mistura [UN Special Envoy for Syria]. We are going to meet in New York during the UN General Assembly to try to push forward for a political solution of the crisis. I hope that now refugee crisis is highlighting for everybody in Europe - and not only - that it is urgent to find a diplomatic, political, solution to the crisis to put an end to this. We see the European angle but we have millions of Internally Displaced People in Syria, of refugees in the region so it is not a European crisis. It is a regional and most of all it's a global crisis we have to face together with our global and regional partners.

On Libya:

I spoke yesterday night with Bernardino León, I have daily contacts with the UN Special Representative.

The European Union is supporting not only in words but very actively, on a daily basis, the work both of the two special representatives of the Secretary General of the UN on Syria and on Libya.  The views we have shared yesterday with Bernardino León is that we are now really on the last mile of the process, a text is on the table, the final one. It is now up to the two parts to take the final responsibility and come to a definite yes or no. I would like to pass a very clear message to all the Libyans: because it is in their interest to find a way out now, after more than one year of crisis  -that is an economic, a security, a political crisis - that the Libyans themselves don't deserve. So I hope that the Libyans and Libyan representatives will all take the final, difficult but needed, step to create a government of national unity within the next days. I would also say very clearly and publicly and to our Libya interlocutors that the European Union is ready from day 1, from day 0, to support financially and in all possible ways they would wish and they would discuss with us, a new start from Libya. For EUNAVFOR MED, as you know we are ready to go to Phase two on the high seas. I am going to visit the Headquarter in Rome tomorrow and Phase 2 on the high seas is something that can start even without a Security Council resolution. So this is what we are going to do, in full respect of international laws and rules. And on the other side, not only it will be useful and helpful for fighting smugglers and traffickers, which is an important part of our global strategy, but it is also about saving lives. We have saved 1500 lives in the last five, six weeks with our presence in EUNAVFOR MED, in addition to the ones that were saved and rescued by Frontex.

So, this is something that we are doing not against anyone, if not the smugglers and the criminal organisations. We are looking for partnerships, first of all with the Libyan authorities, and that is also one of the reasons – not the first –why I hope that we will have a National Unity Government formed soon. The first reason is because the Libyans deserve peace, stability and security and the fight against Da'esh done by the Libyans in their own territory. But also because we can partner in managing the flow in a rational way, respectful of human dignity. And also a work, a common work, that we can do with the Libyan authorities on the Southern borders. That is why I was in Niger a few days ago to discuss the situation in Agadez, which is the main entry point to Libya from the South. We know very well, it is not only the sea border of Libya that needs to be at the centre of our attention, but also the land border.
Thank you very much.

Last question:

On est déjà le premier contributeur au niveau régional au Moyen Orient. Comme je l'ai dit, on va aujourd'hui décider d'augmenter notre contribution aux agences internationales qui font le travail sur le terrain. On a établi un fonds fiduciaire pour la Syrie, pour lequel la Commission européenne a déjà versé de l'argent. J'espère que les États membres vont aussi contribuer d'une façon significative, mais aussi les États qui ne sont pas dans l'Union européenne, parce que c'est un fonds qui est ouvert pour toutes types de contributions. Mais laissez-moi dire qu'on est, l'Union européenne et les États membres ensemble, les premiers donateurs dans le monde, sur le côté humanitaire et aussi sur le côté développement. On fait déjà beaucoup. Ce n'est jamais assez, mais on va faire encore plus. 

Merci  beaucoup.

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