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New York, 19 September 2016
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First of all, thank you very much for coming. I think this shows the interest that is there not only on the issue of the day or of the week - how the manage migration and the refugee flows -, but mainly on how to deal with the root causes of this phenomenon.
So let me start from the very beginning by saying that finally – and we were not in the position of saying the same last year – we are turning visions into actions. We are starting to do the things – and not only to plan - that we will be doing in the future.
The European Union is well on track to finally tackle this phenomenon properly. And we are doing this with our friends and partners in the world. Here we have for the moment one – a great friend and partner representing Jordan, a country with whom we are doing a lot, and a lot of positive things – and another one is going to join us from one of the countries in Africa with whom we are developing partnerships to manage the root causes of migration.
I believe that it is very important for all of us that the issue of migration and forced displacement is at the centre of this year UN General Assembly. We have developed in the last year the policy of partnerships and compacts. It is good to see that at the UN level the same kind of approach of building partnerships is carried to a different level, to a new stage, which is building Global Partnerships - that is what we need.
We have a new global awareness, finally. An understanding that migration can only be dealt with as a global issue. And that we have a duty, a responsibility to invest in this new awareness, and in our partnerships. There are forces around the world, in Europe and also here in the United States, who believe that migration is a fight; a fight between the North and the South, the East and the West, the richer countries and the developing ones. This is not our approach. The European Union believes in partnerships.
We believe that human mobility first of all has always existed in the mankind history. We are ourselves the result of this mankind experience of human mobility. We believe that human mobility can bring about great opportunities. But this can only happen if we work together with shared responsibilities and with common solutions.
If we look at the demographics, it is very clear: a continent like Europe needs migration. And believe me – and I am sure you believe me – every time that I say this word in Europe it is a political issue. Still I believe it is completely necessary for us to face the truth. Did the demographic trends bring Europe to this reality? We need migration, but we want it to be safe, legal, voluntary and well managed. And this will make this common effort sustainable, both on the European side and on the rest of world.
So we see a massive room for win-win solutions, also because if we look at the Mediterranean and Africa you see a huge untapped potential. There is youth, young people with excellent degrees, very good studies and no job opportunities for the future, a lot of good will and they are simply trying to find their place in the future. Actually this is happening also in Europe, but that is another story.
There are also firms and businesses in Europe that are very much willing to invest and expand their business in countries that present huge potential and opportunities, but they are faced with instability, lack of infrastructure, in some cases security risks, and in most cases are prevented from investing in places that are considered as high risk which are also the places that need investments the most: fragile states.
So we have a huge potential – in terms of human capital, in terms of natural resources – that is held back by poverty, by lack of infrastructures, by serious governance challenges, by corruption and in some cases by conflict and war. All these issues are issues that we want to tackle. We are trying to pass the message to our public opinion – I believe here we have a space, we have window of opportunity - that doing so is in our interest as well in the interest of our partner countries in the Mediterranean and in Africa.
The European Union is already by far the largest donor when it comes to humanitarian aid, when it comes to development aid. Kristalina [Georgieva] knows quite a lot about that. We are the first global actor in development aid. This year alone, the European institutions – not including Member States – have committed €4.7 billion to address migration and the refugee crisis. Every time I mention numbers - but Kristalina is much better than me in this -, I feel the numbers are never giving the magnitude of what we are doing for two reasons.
First is that if we aggregate the numbers that the European Union is investing both in the Mediterranean region, in the Syria related crisis or in Africa, you get to huge numbers. In the Syria related crisis we have invested so far more than €6,8 billion; when it comes to Africa it is almost impossible to get the total amount of money that stems both from development and humanitarian aid – I am sure that Kristalina has the right amount - we invest every year.
This to say that we are doing more than anybody else in the world to face the challenges in Africa and in our region; but this is not enough.
And this is why we are presenting today this External Investment Plan. Because we know that it is time for the private sector to join. Our public funds, even these huge public funds, will never be enough if we want to eradicate poverty, meet all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and tackle the challenges of today’s world.
We need an innovative idea to come into life. It is not the only thing we are doing in terms of innovative approaches. We are also working on the Migration Compacts – we are turning also in that respect partnerships with key African countries starting with five - Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Mali and Senegal – from ideas into reality of partnership and cooperation to manage migration together.
But here what we are presenting is the External Investment Plan of the European Union that will allow European firms, but also African and Mediterranean firms to expand their businesses and to offer job opportunities. They are doing that already because European firms are already creating hundreds of thousands of jobs around our neighbourhood.
And let me tell you that every time I meet European entrepreneurs abroad, especially in Africa and in the Mediterranean, they tell me one thing: help us invest more in this country; help us create the conditions for our businesses to grow more in these countries because we see that there is a huge potential out there.
And whenever I talk to our friends in the governments in these countries they tell us: help us to attract more investments, because this is what we need. So we saw that there was a space to match two different aspirations, two different needs and that would be the perfect win-win approach.
We need to get the private sector on board and especially to be able to operate in the fragile countries that need investments the most, where doing businesses is more difficult that anywhere in the world. So this means that we need to accompany these businesses, these firms in these complicated, but very useful journeys.
So what we will do – and obviously then I will let Kristalina to explain -, but what we will do is mobilise European funds; we will provide a guarantee for investments in fragile areas and with specific policy targets.
The Plan will engage in areas crucial for sustainable development, and to help build more resilient societies. Because we often focus, especially in conflict areas, on the strong men that can win a war, but we concentrate too little on the strong societies that can win the peace, which is much more difficult. And this is what the European Union can do.
With this Plan we are putting into action – so it is not words, it is action - the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals, of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and also of COP21. Interventions will cover sustainable infrastructure, agriculture, vicinity services, as well as direct support to private sector development.
And we will focus specifically on young people because we know that the demographic trend especially in Africa and in the Mediterranean is clear. We have to address that part of societies that is also the biggest potential of our area. And this is also a way of not only managing migratory flows, preventing dramatic journeys across the dessert or across the sea, but also the way of preventing radicalisation, and potentially terrorism and criminal organisations.
So we are investing €3.35 billion to leverage some €44 billion euros – that makes approximately $50 billion in investments in Africa and in our neighbourhood. This is more than the European Union is investing currently on development aid worldwide – and as you know, we are the first donor worldwide. So what we are talking about is something huge; it was never done before and can change indeed the way in which we make development policies in Africa and in the Mediterranean.
But the Plan will not simply give financial support and financial guarantees. Usually investors are not only concerned with the financial risk, but also with the business environments they are operating in: with the different justice systems, the technical uncertainties of the local context, the corruption, and of course the security situation.
So what we will do is to use our Delegations – our Embassies, our Ambassadors - in all these countries to accompany the investments and investors and provide them support on the ground. And our political dialogues will help improve also the overall business environment in the countries where we will operate. In this way we are indirectly improving and attracting even more investments. And let me say that a special role will need to be played by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that not only in Europe but also in these countries can play a significant role in terms of job creation.
So it is not only the economic power that we have and that we are putting at the disposal of development goals and especially poverty reduction and also economic development growth in Europe - it is a unique mix of tools that the European Union has: the economic power, the development aid, the diplomatic power, the technical competences that we can put at the disposal of these actors and also our role as global security provider because in these regions, in many countries, we also have the presence on the ground, tackling the issue of security sector reform and security.
Let me say to conclude – and I am sorry that I have been too long – that first of all this is really the European Union added-value at its best. There is not one single Member State of the European Union that alone can do something like that. I would say that there is no country in the world that can do something like that. And it is the smart thing to do: because it is investing in investments, it is investing in entrepreneurship, it is investing in partnerships, it is investing in the future and in the present, it is investing in Africa and in the Mediterranean, in the young people of our region because - yes, this is news maybe for some Europeans - Africa and the Mediterranean are indeed our regions.
So let me conclude by saying that we believe this approach can be revolutionary and we count on our partners and also on our Member States – I see many ministers here in the room and I would like to thank them for this – to match this commitment with concrete acts that could help us doubling the effect of the investment plan.
And let me say that we count very much on our partners in the Mediterranean, in Africa, to make this visionary, but pragmatic and realistic plan work because indeed the European experience tells us very clearly - and I understand this is also something that is mentioned here in the United States in these weeks and months - that we are stronger together and we can solve problems only together. Thank you.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I126217