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Thank you very much and thank you for an excellent cooperation. I could take exactly the same words and refer to the determination and the effectiveness of the work that the Afghan team has put in to the preparation of this conference.
And let me share with you, on a personal note, that all friends, ministers who were today from all corners of the world have told me - not officially around this table only, but also in the corridors - how satisfied they were with this conference today. I think this is the result of a common team work we managed to develop and this is already a very encouraging sign.
But let me say that we come to the closing of a day that has been indeed a very good day; a very successful day for Afghanistan but also for our international and regional cooperation.
Chief Executive Abdullah, you have already highlighted a number of key elements that will guide our way ahead and I share them all. We witnessed an impressive international commitment today – I will let Commissioner [Neven] Mimica determine and share the good news we will have to share about our pledging - a common exercise - but we have seen today not only the financial, but also the political, impressive, international commitment.
This is all to join the efforts of the National Unity Government and I know you feel this responsibility on your shoulders. With our support I am sure that the Afghan support can succeed in the current transition. It has been clear that the international support will continue at extraordinary levels and again when Commissioner Mimica will share the news today it will be more than evident I believe.
So as I said this morning, a new international and regional deal has to go together with a new deal inside Afghanistan, among different parties and sections of Afghan society. And we know that there are many different parties and sections of the country. This is the richness of the country, not a point of weakness. But what we need is unity, consistency, and determination. The unity, consistency and determination we have seen in your leadership, Chief Executive, in the leadership of the President, in the determination of the National Unity Government in these two days, and we are confident that with your leadership, the leadership of President [Ashraf] Ghani and the leadership of the entire National Unity Government, this unity across the country will be built.
The way ahead is still long. No one underestimates the challenges that Afghanistan still faces concerning its politics, its security and its economy. Under difficult circumstances, the National Unity Government provides the best - and let me say the only - opportunity for Afghanistan to move forward.
Afghanistan needs a stable institutional and economic environment to fortify its young democracy and we are ready to step up our commitment to strengthen the rule of law and to protect everybody's human rights. A better future, a better present for Afghanistan will only be built with the full empowerment of all Afghan people starting from women. And let me stress this because this is, I know very important, not only for the international public opinion but also for the Afghan people.
Electoral reform - you mentioned that - is obviously key. We will have to see how the compromises found will materialise in the coming weeks. The European Union will remain a solid partner in these crucial reforms including in the preparation of next year's parliamentary elections. Political stability and legitimacy are a precondition to implement the ambitious reform programme including fundamental changes to the public service, to subnational governance and economic governance. For the economy to really prosper an effective judiciary is also of the essence. Long-term investments require a credible timetable for reforms, and this is vital both for Afghans citizens who decide to invest in the future in Afghanistan, and for partners in the region and far away in different parts of the world who could be ready, who are ready, I believe, to invest in stability and growth.
Security obviously remains a key factor. Security is a matter of capabilities, we know that well, and we keep supporting the training of Afghan security forces. But security is also - and maybe even more sometimes - a matter of politics. It depends on a meaningful peace process and it depends on a positive regional environment. Let me say clearly that security only exists if it is for all countries in the region and that security only exists if all countries in the region create the conditions for it.
Let me also say very clearly that here in Brussels, in these days, I have seen an emerging consensus among Afghanistan's neighbours and global players. I can only hope that they can lay the foundations towards a win-win situation in terms of security, political stability and new economic opportunities, both for Afghanistan and for the entire region.
And I believe this is the main message of today's conference and I will conclude here.
We are all ready, here around this table, one hundred among countries and organisations. We are all ready to accompany you every step of the way even if we know it is going to be a difficult and long way. But we are here, we will be here, we will continue to be here with the determination and with the unity that we are asking of you, showing that ourselves first.
We are here to accompany this process, we are here to strengthen the progress achieved so far, also to solve the problems that the country is still facing and finally bring peace to the country. As you have mentioned, Chief Executive Abdullah, this common work, this common responsibility continues tomorrow. It continues here in Brussels, and you can count on us. It continues in all the countries and organisations that are sitting around this table, and it continues in Kabul once you will go back.
I thank you very much.
Q. The pledges that were committed to Afghanistan: were they based on performance or on the concerns of the international community to lose the achievements of the past 15 years?
I can try to interpret the thinking behind this amazing, impressive support, which are also the bases for the European Union's own pledge, which as I said is the first and is the most significant. I believe that this is the understanding – finally - that the international community cannot only tackle the crises at their peak, but have to sustain efforts; be it for conflict prevention – which is not the case for Afghanistan -, be it for stabilisation and reconstruction, giving hope to societies, building the conditions for - as you, [President Ghani,] said - the poorest, but not only the poorest; the youth, which is the majority of the population; the women. If you combine all these sectors you get probably 100 per cent of Afghan society. This means, I think, that the international community – and Europe for sure – has realised that it is in our interest to invest in the success of Afghanistan now and in the future. It is exactly the win-win approach that President Ghani was mentioning. We have, I think, finally realised that instead of running here and there, wherever conflicts blow up, we have to have a steady, consistent, serious policy of investment in human safety, which involves job creation, human rights, strong governance, inclusiveness , and also hard security, but most of all social and economic development. I am not strong if my neighbour is not strong. Sometimes in the past decades, someone in the international community has thought that I am strong if someone else is weaker. I think we have finally realised that either we are strong together or we are all losing together. And this is why I think that Afghanistan is receiving today a 'credit' that now needs our common work to be translated into projects that change the lives of the Afghan people. This is the aim. But I think this is not of because of fear, but out of rational investment in our common security, but also our common development. It is investment in something that everybody believes that can have a happy ending.
Q. Today we heard the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condition the German aid of €1.8 billion for the next years to cooperation on the migration front from Afghanistan. You mentioned very clearly that EU aid was not conditioned upon this, so out of the €5 billion that you have mentioned are the EU side, is it only the German aid that is also conditioned cooperation on migration? Also: the civil society members today have actually asked to stop the deportations of Afghan refugees until the country is stable. Is this feasible after the (Joint Way Forward) agreement that was signed on Sunday?
Let me clarify immediately and thank you for the question. The [Joint Way Forward] agreement we just signed [on Sunday 2 October, in Kabul] has nothing to do with the conference of today. It was not the issue of the conference today and, not by chance, was not signed here at the conference today; it is the result of a parallel process that we started months ago through a very open, constructive, and transparent dialogue and cooperation, exactly as we have prepared together in a spirit of partnership this conference, to better manage a phenomenon that is complex on both sides. It is complex in Afghanistan because the criminal organisations that are arranging the travels of Afghans in an irregular way is also a problem for Afghan security and the economy, and it is complicated to manage on the European side. So it is a sense of partnership to provide us a space for working together, for managing together. That is the spirit and this is the meaning of the agreement.
The agreement itself provides for sure no conditionality and all the pledges today were not bound to conditionality; for sure not the one of the European Union. And let me stress one thing that is maybe still unclear, but I think it is correct for me to underline this: I know there is a lot of attention in the European public opinion and also in Afghanistan on different sides on the part of the agreement that concerns returns and reintegration. This has nothing at all to do with refugees. This would be against international and European law. So it is only referring to Afghans who are present on the territory of the European without a legal basis for that, which means without an asylum procedure or without having asked for asylum, or having been rejected asylum. So the key principles, not only of international law - that we not only respect but promote, and Afghanistan knows something about - are not only fully respected but are the basis of any dialogue and any partnership that we discuss. I would also like to stress that this is only one tiny part of an agreement that covers opportunities for the young people of Afghanistan. And let me stress that this is, to my eyes, the most important part of the agreement, and maybe the part that overlaps a bit with the conference of today. If you want to find a point of connection, it is actually that: the need to invest in the future and in the present of the Afghan youth so that they find secure conditions but also satisfactory conditions in their own country in the first place. This is our purpose.
Q. The Afghan government has committed to tackle corruption but we Afghans want to hear about mutual tackling corruption. For example in the past we have some of the international companies working in Afghanistan and they committed to corruption in Afghanistan. Is there any deal that the international community will also tackle corruption?
I have an easy answer for that. Corruption is corruption it has no border of nationality and those who are involved in episodes of corruption need to have exactly the same treatment wherever they are from, be it in Afghanistan, be it in Europe, be it elsewhere in the world. When we cooperate on anti-corruption measures, we do it whether it is corruption that is done by or with Afghan citizens involved, or with European citizens involved. We do not make any differences in that. All the cooperation on anti-corruption that we can have is obviously there.
Q. On the situation in Aleppo and the possibility of sanctions against Russia or Syrian officials
Very shortly on Syria - because we dedicated the entire two days to a country that deserves all our attention, so I do not feel particularly comfortable in answering a question that relates to something else - but I understand very well the attention to Syria also because, obviously, part of our talks at the margins of the conference yesterday and today, especially with Secretary Kerry and UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon were related to the situation in Syria, in particular to two issues. And these are the two issues to which the European Union and me personally are dedicating the attention and the work of these hours. One, the humanitarian situation in Aleppo where, as you know, we are trying hard, through the international agencies, the UN system and the NGOs to find a way of providing medical help inside eastern Aleppo and to have medical evacuations of those who are in need, in extremely difficult circumstances. The second element of our work in these days is - as we all said and we all believe that only a political solution to the situation in Syria can put an end to this war and not a military victory of one side against the other - that we manage to preserve and re-launch, the space for political processes to be carried on. This is something we are doing together with the United Nations, the UN Special Envoy [Staffan de Mistura] is the one who is responsible for this process to be continued. But the European Union has and can have a role to play to actively support his efforts in these hours to keep the window of the political solution open so that the Syrian parties can engage in a discussion on the future of their country, that sooner or later will have to come. And we believe - again I would like to stress this very clearly - that there is no military solution to this conflict. This is still very strongly our belief, that I believe also the other international and regional actors continue to share. So, our work in these hours is not on other elements; it is on trying to safeguard and re-launch the perspectives of a political solution. Thank you. And apologies for derailing from the main issue.