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Grazie Presidente [Mr Antonio Tajani], vorrei iniziare con congratularmi con lei per l’elezione a Presidente di questo Parlamento e augurarmi, anzi a essere certa, di un'ottima cooperazione che d’altra parte abbiamo già avviato.
I would also like to underline one element: I fully share what my friends Ms Fotyga and Ms Corazza Bildt raised. In the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday we will have the situation on Ukraine in the agenda with the Foreign Ministers and that will also be our occasion to restate our full support to the country and to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Now coming to the issue on our agenda today, I would start by saying that Europe and the United States of America are tied by an old and deep friendship. Personally, I have always looked – and I still look - at the United States with great respect and admiration, as a land where everyone can succeed, whatever their social, ethnic or cultural background. A land of opportunities, a land of hope and dreams. A country that always has been great, exactly because it has always been open and has always been a champion of freedoms.
As a good friend of the United States, I believe Europe has a duty to be clear – respectful and clear - whenever a disagreement arises, especially when it relates to our fundamental values. And we certainly disagree with the Executive Order issued by the President of the United States [Donald Trump] on 27 January, as many in the U.S. seem to disagree too.
The Executive Order introduces a temporary suspension, for a period of 90 days, of the entry into the U.S. of foreign nationals from seven countries as you know well – Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen.
It also foresees a temporary suspension, for a period of 120 days, of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. In principle no new refugee applications can be accepted until the U.S. Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Homeland Security, reviews the current application process.
There have been questions on which citizens are affected by the travel ban - and I would like to tackle this issue immediately and then focus on what to me is even more important. The US Department of State has clarified yesterday that the citizens of the European Union will not be affected by the ban, even if they hold dual citizenship in one of the seven countries listed in the Executive Order. We welcome this clarification, but let me be absolutely clear: this does not change our overall assessment about the Executive Order.
I have already made clear in the last days where the European Union stands on this. No one – no one - can be deprived of his or her own rights because of their place of birth, their religion, or their ethnicity.
This is written in our constitutions – both in Europe and in America. This is who we are, this is our identity, this is something we cannot forget. Our European history has told us to celebrate when a wall is torn down and a bridge is built. We learnt from our own great - but also tragic - history that every human being is first and foremost a person with fundamental rights that cannot be put into question. And let me add, from a personal point of view, I found it really sad to learn that this Executive Order was issued on 27 January, the Holocaust Remembrance Day. That is first and foremost a day to commemorate millions of Jews killed by Nazism, but also to reject any discrimination, and to reflect on our duty to host those who flee from persecution and protect them and their rights.
Many of them, most of them actually, are fleeing from terrorist groups such as Dae'sh; they are victims of terrorism. And beyond being refugees, they are men and women and children with personal stories, dreams and fears, and profound wounds. And most of all, they have a future to build, also for the sake of their own countries and our own security, because the social reconstruction of their countries depends on them.
So let me - actually I should say let us be very clear: the European Union will not turn back anyone who has the right to international protection. This is where we stand; this is where we will continue to stand. It would not be moral, it would not be just, it would not be legal and it would not be in our interest. Because this kind of measure has the potential to increase tensions and mistrust among people, among peoples, and nations. When I say among people, I also mean among people in our own societies, and I am worried by the trends we are seeing inside the American society in these days and that is why, with a lot of respect, I invited the President of the United States to pay attention to what is happening in his own country.
Only respect and cooperation can make us more secure. Only respect and cooperation can help us manage the many crises around the world. This is the European way. We work together with the countries experiencing a crisis and with their neighbours. All of them. A travel ban can maybe, maybe, give a temporary illusion of addressing the issue – but it can only create more frustration, and anger. We need cooperation, not closures. We need to engage. We need to build common ground, not to ban.
The EU will continue to be a partner and a strong point of reference for all countries in the region, regardless of the religion of their citizens. They can count on us. And we will continue to be a partner and a strong point of reference for all those in the world who believe in international cooperation, human rights and the rule of law.
This is also why the European Union is the biggest donor in the world to the Syrian people and the neighbouring countries, with more than €9 billion invested since the start of the fighting in Syria.
And so far, the European Union and the US have worked closely together, including at the UN Summit on refugees in New York - because a global issue requires a global common work. Bold commitments were made, to protect the human rights of all refugees and migrants, and to counter hate speech against refugees and migrants.
The EU is always ready to engage with the new US administration to follow up on these commitments, as well as on many other achievements we managed in these last years to build together and that are today key fundamental elements of our European Union's policy: from climate change to the Iran deal; from the Middle East Peace Process to our support to the UN system and a free and fair trade system.
On the basis of this, of this very clear international agenda, we will work with the US administration as partners with full, reciprocal respect. This is the European Union's way. These are our principles, these are our values, and our interests. And I believe we have a responsibility both towards our citizens and our partners - in the region and beyond in the world - to be true to our values and identity, show leadership and strength.