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It is for me a personal satisfaction to see this [European Union - League of Arab States] Summit happening. We decided to hold the Summit during the Ministerial Meeting that we had in Cairo between the European Union and the League of Arab States back in 2016 and it is so important that we actually have this Summit today.
The Arab region was the only one in the world with whom the European Union did not have a summit before, which was sort of a paradox, as we are so close and we share so many challenges and opportunities. We are the first investor in the region, we are the first trade partner for all countries in the League of Arab States and we do share the same concerns when it comes to the fight against terrorism, preventing radicalisation, offering opportunities to the young people in our region and dealing with conflicts and crises on which we largely share the same positions. From Syria to the Middle East Peace Process, from Yemen to Libya - I would expect the Summit to tackle all these issues with a positive spirit.
We will not agree on everything, as it is normal among friends and partners. But I think this Summit is in itself a deliverable: the fact that it happens and that we established this practice for the future. I take it also as part of my personal legacy that we have managed to accomplish this meeting. Again, we will not agree on everything, but it is really important to compare notes and to find common ways to proceed on single elements that are very important for both of us.
Q: This is a country where human rights organisations say that freedoms have been systematically closed down. How firmly will you be raising the issue of human rights with President [of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-] Sisi and the other Arab leaders?
We constantly and consistently raise the issues related to human rights with all our partners in the world, no matter how far or how close to us they are, no matter how big or small. The European Union is a consistent champion of human rights everywhere. By the way, I will be honoured to open in the European Parliament next week an important event against the death penalty in the world. There is no taboo for us with any of our partners and this is also true here.
A very important part of our work on human rights is the concrete support we give to human rights defenders, NGOs, civil society activists, who are always very important partners for the European Union. Count on us always and as always to be frank and straightforward on these issues and to raise any possible issues we have, including the most difficult ones. Our partners know where we stand and we are always very clear with them.
Q: On common perspective for Europeans and Arabs.
I believe Europeans and Arabs share, first of all, a lot of history, we share a lot of geography and a lot of culture. We also share common interests in peace, security and economic development in our region. The three issues are interlinked. I often say security has to be a sustainable one, which means based on human rights, good governance, the rule of law, but also on economic development, and opportunities for young people in particular. I believe that the core of our partnership can be offering good opportunities for young people in the Arab world, also in the European continent, but in particular in the Arab world. There, almost half of the population is under 25 years old. If we do not work together to offer them a good job, a salary, a perspective for the future and even access to power, we are going to have serious problems. I am convinced that this is the core of our shared interest and I am convinced that we can do very good things together on this.
Q: On migration on the agenda.
Let me clarify from the very outset: this is not a migration summit. Migration is among the different issues that we have on our table, but I would say it is not the first and not the most prominent one. And this is not a bilateral summit between the European Union and Egypt.
I hope that the Summit manages to focus on our partnership when it comes to economic relations, when it comes to our common work, and for instance, on Palestine and peace between Israel and Palestine, peace between Israel and the Arab world and revitalising the two state solution. But also a common approach, I hope, on the conflict in Syria, on the conflict in Yemen and to try and have the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. And a common work on Libya, in particular with Tunisia hosting the next summit of the League of Arab States - where I hope I will manage to be present personally. I hope that we will manage to have discussions on migration, but also very serious and productive discussions on all the other issues that are so relevant for all our people.
Q: On Brexit
I always say that Brexit is not yet my file. I will talk about when the UK will become a third country, which is still not the case. I still chair a Council with 28 Member States and I still speak on behalf of 28 Member States.
Abbiamo summit con l'Africa, con l'America Latina, con l'Asia, ma ne avevamo non con il mondo arabo. Ed era un paradosso, perché è la regione del mondo che ci è più vicina, con la quale condividiamo più sfide ma anche più opportunità. Siamo il primo partner commerciale per tutti i paesi arabi. Siamo i primi investitori, come Unione europea, in tutti i paesi arabi. La maggior parte dei conflitti che preoccupano noi e il mondo arabo sono gli stessi, dalla Siria alla Libia, al processo di pace tra Israele e Palestina, allo Yemen.
Quindi il fatto che si tenga il summit è di per sé un evento storico. Io personalmente sono molto soddisfatta di questo risultato, perché è una decisione che avevamo preso nel 2016, con i ministri degli esteri della Lega Araba e dell'Unione europea, a una ministeriale che avevo co-presieduto con il segretario generale della Lega Araba. Ci abbiamo messo più di due anni a realizzarlo ma sono felice che abbia luogo. Ovviamente ci saranno dei temi difficili sul tavolo. Non su tutto abbiamo le stesse posizioni. Saremo, credo, molto franchi ma anche molto costruttivi. E' il primo, spero, di una serie di summit che apre un canale di cooperazione e di dialogo che credo sia molto importante, strategicamente.
Q: L'Unione Europea arriva un po' divisa sul tema della migrazione.
Non è un summit sull'immigrazione. Sarà un summit in cui si parlerà anche di cooperazione economica, di crisi. Ovviamente l'immigrazione è uno dei temi di cui parleremo, ma appunto, abbiamo la partnership economica, il lavoro sui giovani... Quasi la metà della popolazione del mondo arabo ha meno di venticinque anni. Se non offriamo loro prospettive di lavoro, non soltanto sul lato migrazione ma anche sul lato radicalizzazione avremo continuamente problemi. La Siria, la Palestina, la Libia. Sono tutti temi su cui l'Unione europea e il mondo arabo non possono che trovare posizioni comuni. Quindi spero che questo sarà il focus principale del summit.