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Today the College adopted the first report on the implementation of the Partnership Framework Communication. We have established this partnership with five priority countries in Africa as you know: Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia. The communication was tabled by the Commission in June; was endorsed by the June European Council and the European Council tasked me to carry forward the work bringing together the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Member States in a coordinated and coherent manner.
This is the first occasion we have to report both on process and also on the first results we have obtained. And let me say that we shared some elements of this already yesterday with the Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg and with Home Affairs Ministers last week at the Council. Mani
Now on the process: we have established a close coordination system with Member States and within the European Commission, so full coordination, full ownership of all EU institutions and all EU Member States. We established a Sherpa network of Member States and within the Commission I set up a project team of Commissioners and Vice-Presidents covering all the different areas of work that we need to mobilise in view of building these partnerships. A similar coordination has started on the ground around the EU Delegations in the five countries where we have started to work with Member States Embassies and Member States are reinforcing EU Delegations with dedicated European migration liaison officers in these countries
In these few months since we started, we have done in a coordinated manner ten visits of the highest possible political level to establish these partnerships in the field of migration. This means that both Commissioners and Ministers of Member States alike have been travelling and bringing forward the EU message, a common EU message and a common EU work - again, as I said, both Commissioners and Foreign Ministers. The approach has been very well received by our partners and rightly so, because we moved from an old kind of approach to a mutually benefiting win-win partnership, so it is a new way of engaging: a two-way partnership where each side has its own responsibilities and we look at the best possible ways in which we can, together, manage a complex phenomenon.
Since we started a total of 59 programmes for the amount of €927 million have been adopted. A total of 24 projects funded by the EU Trust Fund for Africa, representing over €425 million will have been launched in the five priority countries by the end of this year. This means an acceleration of the use of the Trust Fund, this has led us – the Commission – to propose and agree with Member States a further increase by €500 million for the Trust Fund for Africa in order to ensure that we have sufficient resources available to run the projects that have been identified.
The core objectives of these partnerships and the projects are first of all saving lives. It is the priority number one for the European Union. Second: disrupting the smuggling networks, we do it in different ways; open regular channels for migration and work on return of migrants who have arrived in Europe without title to stay in the Europe, so in an irregular way.
We are starting to see the very first operational results on the ground. I guess you will find in the package more details and I understand we have a technical briefing this afternoon as well, but on the first operational results on the ground, I will just mention a few examples.
In Agadez, in Niger, we have encouraging data in terms of decreases in the transit of migrants, increases in assisted voluntary returns and what I think is going to be the real game changer, arrest of smugglers and traffickers which helps us dismantling the networks of criminal organisations of trafficking of human beings. So the first results are coming on the ground and let me remind us all that Agadez is the place where most of the flow entering into Libya that enter Europe through the Central Mediterranean route is going through.
In Mali and Senegal we are working mainly on addressing the root causes of migration through targeted projects, to improve governance through the strengthening of the civil registry systems and to increase return rates. In Nigeria we will start very soon negotiations on a readmission agreement and we are working to address the root causes that are leading population movements in one of the largest countries of Africa.
In Ethiopia there is a worrying political situation that is developing and that we are following closely. We are continuing in this moment to lend our support to a country that has been hosting and is still hosting over 700.000 refugees having difficult economic and social conditions. We are doing so by promoting employment opportunities both for refugees and for local communities alike. These are programmes which – by the way, I visited myself one of those that we financed previously already - are particularly beneficial because, obviously, it is migration which is tackled but also a sustainable development of the country as such.
All in all, again, in these last four months we have set up a system which is innovative in itself because the process has for the first time gathered together the European Commission, the European External Action Service, and the Member States, with a full ownership of all Member States, and in a coordinated manner among institutions. So it is Europe, European Union as its best in terms of mobilising all our tools together, in a coordinated manner, and first results starting to come.
Obviously, we know very well that this is not a short term engagement. We also know very well that there is no quick fix to this - so it is about laying the ground for results, more results, to come in the future and most of all, to make it sustainable for the countries of origin and transit.
We count on reaching full cruising speed by December this year. I forgot to say; obviously this will be a report that we will present to the European Council the day after tomorrow and Friday. This is the first progress report, we will come back to a further report in December but you know very well that beyond December we will have to continue our joint work in institutions, Member States and our partners, well beyond that moment.
A part of our long term engagement, I would like just to mention that, is the proposal for the European Investment Plan that I presented with Vice-President Katainen and Vice-President Georgieva just one month ago in Strasbourg and that is proceeding, we hope it can lead to swift conclusion and launching of projects soon.
So, our assessment is that more has been obtained in these few months than in the past several years, and that especially we have established a framework to work in a productive, constructive, respectful manner with our partners, in partnership, ownership and shared responsibility with our partners and with the Member States.
By the way, this is also the core principle that was the core of the Valletta summit last year and also that we were bringing forward at the United Nations General Assembly in September while defining the Global Compact on migration. I will stop here and be ready to answer to your questions. Thank you.
Q and A
Q. On returns – what prospects and time horizon for returns to happen and how big is the problem of identification of citizens by the countries of origin.
A. Thank you for the question. I said it is not a quick fix approach, it is a long term investment but I do not think that we will need necessarily to wait a long time before the first returns and readmissions take place. And on identification, we already had – correct me if I am wrong – the first identification missions in these weeks and we see some of these five countries in particular moving well in this respect and we know very well obviously that identification is the basis for returns and readmissions. So the positive assessment on the overall first results, after four months only, of the approach are positive also on that side, returns and readmissions and also on identification.
But I would like to stress here that returns and identification are, I know, extremely important, and also the part of the Compacts that are attracting more media attention, but we would be probably mistaken if we would have to focus only on returns and readmissions. The Compacts are composed of several different other parts and again, I would like to stress, that the dismantling of the networks which means prevention of irregular flows, is also key as well as is the work on the root causes that is going to be the investment in the near future and also the long term future. But I am positive also on that.
Q. On migration – on the comments of Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on the reallocation programme – some countries do not apply the readmission plan and are not sanctioned.
A. I remember I said already in this press room a few months ago, several months ago: the rules are rules, in all different fields, in all different policies, and the rules have to be applied. Underlining in particular one thing, in this case in particular - the reallocation scheme – those are not just rules that the Commission has proposed but they are rules that the European Council itself, which means the Member States, has adopted. So it is the Member States themselves that have adopted rules and it is a matter of coherence to stick to those rules and indeed, the Foreign Minister is right in saying that all the rules have to be respected and the Commission, for sure, has a role to play in making sure that the rules are respected in all fields of policy.
Q. Come mai al di là dall'affermare che le regole vanno rispettate non si vedono conseguenze, mentre su altri fronti la Commissione è più veloce a imporre procedure d'infrazione, qual è il ragionamento che c'è dietro?
A. In questo caso temo di dovermi fermare alle mie competenze istituzionali che sono, come sapete bene, sul lato esterno delle politiche migratorie dell'Unione europea, ed è il motivo per cui oggi qui presento il lavoro esterno che facciamo con i paesi innanzitutto africani e con i paesi della regione in particolare del Mediterraneo. Non sul lato interno della migrazione per cui ha competenza, come sapete, il Commissario Avramopoulos e supervisiona invece il Vice-Presidente Timmermans. Quindi mi fermo a fare un rapporto che appunto giudico, con primi passi positivi sul lavoro esterno che l'Unione europea sta facendo, che tutti gli Stati membri hanno riconfermato ancora ieri in Lussemburgo al Consiglio Affari Esteri essere positivo e portare a dei primi risultati in cui il lavoro tra Commissione e Stati membri sta funzionando in modo egregio, con una condivisione del lavoro, della responsabilità degli approcci che sta portando a dei primi risultati. E posso soltanto augurarmi che questo stesso spirito di cooperazione e lavoro comune tra diverse istituzioni e tra diversi Stati membri possa riflettersi anche sul lato interno delle politiche migratorie.
Q. Is the Turkey deal the model for the Compacts with Africa and on the extension of the Compacts to other countries.
A. The answer to the first question is very simple: no. It is not a blueprint, the situation is extremely different. On the Compacts we are talking about migration, the work we have done with Turkey is about supporting Turkey in hosting refugees. So, it is legally a different kind of work and also obviously from the humanitarian point of view even if, again, I would like to stress, the red line of all our work is the full respect of international law and human rights standards everywhere. But no, it is not a blueprint, the situation is different, the Compacts, the concept, the philosophy, and the measures are completely different.
The second question about other countries you mentioned. For sure, once we reach the full speed in the first five priority countries and we assess that the approach is the right one and it brings satisfactory results for us and our partners, we could consider other countries. In the meantime the work with the other countries is going on with other instruments and with other means. You mentioned Lebanon: just yesterday the Council approved the Compact for Lebanon and the Compact for Jordan – you might remember we were working on them after the London Conference we had in February, so before the end of the year we will finalise this work with both Jordan and Lebanon and we have the Compacts ready now. So, that could be more of a blueprint in terms of defining win-win approaches and projects that can support both the local community and the migrants in the case of the migration Compacts, refugees, again, when it comes to Jordan and Lebanon.
There are other countries, namely, the countries of origin and transit in Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, others, where we do not have Compacts at the moment. This could be considered in the future and still, the work continues bilaterally with these countries, between the European Union and each of them. We, as you know, signed a Joint Way Forward with Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. We are working with Pakistan and with Bangladesh at full speed.
The Compacts are the innovative instrument we have put in place responding fully with the philosophy of approaching this issue in terms of partnership. But this is not the only instrument we have. For instance, we have the Trust Fund that we have established in La Valetta Summit last year and that we continue to use. We have the processes of Khartoum and Rabat that continue to work. So, all the different strands of work are continuing with other countries but there is a possibility for expanding the number of countries with whom we can develop Compacts in the future.
Q. On the evaluation of the progress made – what criteria are used and on the instructions given to the five partner countries.
A. First of all, some of the questions will be answered for sure at the technical briefing where colleagues can go more in details on the content of the Compacts, each and every one, because each and every Compact is different from the other because the situation of every country is very different from the other. The situation of a country like Niger, that is mainly a country that hosts refugees, and at the same time sees massive flows crossing the country but is not a country of origin itself, has to be tackled with measures and projects that are different from a country that is mainly a country of origin for instance and on the contrary does not host refugees itself.
So every country has a specific tailor-made approach, depending on the situation the country is facing on the ground. This means also that, let say, the assessment of the success of the Compacts changes country by country and I would like to challenge the notion of assessing from our side and assessing from their side. I know this is the mainstream media approach, but not only, where we have two sides: one which is giving and one which is taking and vice-versa. But here we are trying to develop a different kind of concepts where we sit together, we describe and we have a common assessment and understanding of what kind of problems, what kind of features the phenomenon has in that specific country and together see how we can better manage the phenomenon which is beneficial for the country of origin, or transit, in some cases are also countries of destination themselves, and on our side.
So the better management is the assessment criteria I would say, that changes very much from country to country so in some cases, I made the example of Niger for instance, it is about dismantling the criminal networks of smuggling and criminal people over the desert, which entails several actions. So we might have measurable actions linked to this priority that is also a priority for the government of Niger because it allows better control of a difficult territory across which different kind of smugglings - finance, maybe some other kind of activities – happen and it is, as you know, at the border with Libya so it has also security implication. So every single country has a different Compact made up of different components and this changes the criteria for the assessment - that is why I said maybe the technical briefing can go more in details, country by country and flash out the elements of the Compacts themselves.
Q. On the possibility to use negative incentives.
A. As I underlined, we are investing in this phase, which is the set-up phase of the Compacts, on the win-win approach. We see this is more in line, first of all, with our values but also more in line with our interest because, as I said, this has allowed us to establish a very constructive and cooperative atmosphere with our partners. When I said all our partners are very much willing to engage and are very positive about this approach, this is also the basis for the Compacts to bring results. And as long as this will continue to be this way, a positive common work based on win-win, I think we will have no reason to go in different directions.
But I would like to underline one thing: there is no conditionality of aid. That is crystal-clear, that would not meet our legal standards and also our basic principles, so I want this to be one hundred percent clear.
Q. On the possibility to have a Compact with Egypt as suggested by Germany.
A. With Egypt we have some dialogues ongoing. This is part of the Khartoum process, Egypt is playing an important role there and this could provide a basis for some common work on migration. We have not considered at the moment developing a specific Compact with Egypt, neither has Egypt indicated willingness to go in this direction but this does not mean that we do not work or we will not work on migration with Egypt. And, as I said, we have some other channels that can be used in that respect. Then for the future we will see. As I said, we start with these five countries and then we will consider.
One thing I would like to underline because you mentioned that, I think, at the beginning. Libya is for sure not a country that given the security conditions on the ground and the overall political trends could be, in this moment, a country where we could develop a Compact. Thank you.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I127952
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I127953
More information on the report and the Migration Partnerships can be found here: http://eeas.europa.eu/topics/migration-partnership_en