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Thank you very much. Let me first of all thank Italy and the Netherlands and all of you for this initiative. I remember very well, two years ago, the issue of migration and refugees was a top priority only for a few of us – probably the same ones who are in this room today -, but it was not the centre of neither of the European Union, nor the policies of the United Nations if I can say so. So it was indeed a top priority for the countries of origin, of transit, of destination, but not the global priority that this [United Nations] General Assembly is trying to highlight.
I think that now there is a new global awareness. There is a new European awareness that is finally trying to turn into a shared responsibility, an understanding that it is not a crisis where a crisis approach will lead us to the solution. It is not by managing the Syrian refugees alone, or the Palestinian refugees alone, or the refugees and migrants in Ethiopia, in Niger or in Nigeria or elsewhere, eg in Asia, that we can face this as waves of regional crises, once in Asia, once in Europe, once in the Middle East, once in Africa - we need this global partnership to deal with a global phenomenon that is here to stay. We have to face this reality. Actually migration has always existed: some of our countries here know that very well.
And we need two things: First to tackle this issue globally, as a global phenomenon. And second to build partnerships, to manage this shared responsibility.
And I would say that this year, compared to last year, the European Union is at least on what we do with our partners in the world and in our region finally on track. Last year it was all about the European crisis around refugees. I think this year we have finally waken up collectively to this need to first of all work together on the external policies; and we have started also thanks to the initiative of some of our Member States - Italy, the Netherlands, some others - to build partnerships at the Valetta Summit last year.
And today we have two or even three main instruments for our external work. One is the work we do particularly with the UNHCR and the IOM and I would like to thank you for the excellent cooperation we have established in these years in supporting each other managing a complex phenomenon.
Second, the compacts – we called them compacts or partnerships. We started with Lebanon and Jordan at the London Conference, putting on the table only what the European Union only together can do, which is a mix of economic resources but also some specific measures; for instances with Jordan we work on the rules of origin. Some things that only 28 Member States together can put together and not one single Member State can mobilise.
And we have now started the work on compacts or partnerships with five African countries with tailor-made approaches because the situation is very different from country to country: the geographical situation, the climate situation, the reasons for people to decide to leave or to be forced to leave which is the real dramatic experience they are facing. And we know very well that the situation in Agadez is very different from the situation in parts of Ethiopia. So we have started to work with the five countries and with the Member States of the European Union that are together with the EU institutions leading this process and mobilising resources concretely to tackle the root causes – a long-term approach, building the win-win solutions that we need to manage together a phenomenon.
The other element, the other instrument that we have put in place - that I have been presenting this week in New York - is this External Investment Plan. It is not purely migration-related but we know very well that investing and bringing private investments in Africa and in the Mediterranean are also ways of tackling the root causes in the long-term.
And it is obviously an experience that starts with the experience we developed inside the European Union with the [Internal] Investment Plan we mobilised for re-launching investments and growth inside the European Union. And we thought that it would be a good idea - and we are turning it into reality these days - to mobilise up to €44 billion, that it is USD 50 billion. I think it is the biggest ever investment plan realised for Africa, the Middle East and for North Africa to accompany private investors in countries that are by definition the countries where it is more difficult to invest but also more needed: the fragile states.
And at the same time fostering economies in these countries, offering opportunities to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), also bringing European investments in these countries and working in partnership with the authorities of these countries but also with the local communities and local authorities where needed to create the infrastructures, the business environment, the legal framework, that then can lead to further jobs creation.
All of this is strongly linked with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), because in these cases we cannot simply accompany private investments and that is it. We are going to have a clear guidance on where are the sectors where the added-value related to the SDGs is there. So it is going to be about climate, about job creation, especially targeting youth and women, about infrastructure that is sustainable and serves the interest of the sustainable development of these communities.
And again the resources for that are already allocated. We expect, as I said, to be able to able to mobilise the initial fund of up to €44 billion of investments. This because I have seen it with my own eyes; in my first trip to Africa in my capacity has been to Agadez and I will always remember landing there, meeting with the Council, with the women, with the young people there, the first thing they told me was: “This used to be a tourist place, then security went down, the climate change and the desertification came in and we do not have any economic opportunities anymore. Bring us back any kind of economic opportunity in which we can invest our lives and you will not have the trafficking anymore”. It is crystal clear, it is logical, it is easy to understand. I could have plenty of other stories of this kind from different other countries.
So this can be a smart way of investing in human resources, in the development of the countries, in security because when you have economic development you also have security. It is also a way of managing the long-term effects or actually the root causes of migration but not only that. For me, if we had the SDGs fully implemented tomorrow, we would have managed both the problems of migratory flows and refugees – what we call refugee crisis which to me is more a crisis for refugees than they are for us. And I think this message is coming out from this [United Nations] General Assembly powerfully this year.
So, thanks also to the initiative that Italy took of proposing the compacts. I would like to thank Paolo [Gentiloni, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy] and other ministers, including the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Bert Koenders and others who have started to work on this, taking the responsibility of starting to work in the name of the European Union in a joint effort and in a joint approach.
I believe that we can contribute to shaping this Global Compacts that we are launching here today with one priority that is on top of our list. The first one and you were mentioning this: saving lives. I think the reaction did not come when the first visible tragedy happened in Lampedusa. I remember that very well, being on the Italian side: the frustration of not seeing the reaction that should have been there. But I think last year with the other tragedy that happened off the coast of Lampedusa where 900 people died at sea something finally clicked. To me it was a shame that we needed another tragedy on top of all the tragedies we had already witnessed, but I can say today that the European Union has already saved over 400.000 lives in the Mediterranean.
Finally we are at sea, 24 Member States under the European flag together with the Italian authorities, having this priority as of saving lives as the first one. It is not enough because we still have too many people dying at sea, but finally it is not only one country facing this, it is a common effort.
Let me finish by saying also something that is less noble, but very important: the resources. Because we need the money to work on this and I am quite proud that the EU is and will continue to be the first donor in this respect on the Syrian refugee crisis related efforts. We have invested so far more than €6 billion euros and we are committed to continue, through the channels of the UNHCR for what concerns Syria and other agencies and other international NGOs. It is important to join these efforts because for sure this is not enough, but we need partnership, we need global responsibility.
There are other instruments that we put together. For instance in the Sahel or around Lake Chad there is a security aspect that needs to be tackled as well and we are trying to develop this work also regionally to try and have a better border control, not because we want to stop the people but because we want to avoid that people lose their lives not only at sea but also in the desert.
And Paolo made reference to that in his speech. And this is also why we are ready to work on the southern border of Syria, together with Niger and Chad to find a way of managing a very difficult area. And here the work we can do with the IOM is going to be crucial. Some think that this is a fight, that this is a North-South division. On the contrary, I believe that this is a test for the international community to understand that we are together on this and either we manage together or we fail together.
And I believe that at this [United Nations] General Assembly we have laid the basis for a common partnership and a common work to face a joint responsibility. I believe this is a common issue, together with climate change, on which our political generation will be judged. So I am grateful for this initiative but most of all I am grateful for the work we can do together from now on.
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