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Thank you, George [Vella, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta],
First of all let me very sincerely – and not just formally – thank you personally. Being here today is not just the technical follow-up of a very important Summit we had one year ago here in Valetta. It is also a political statement that the Maltese Presidency together with the European Union institutions – and I think all of us – is doing. And this links, as you just explained, with the Maltese Presidency, with your - not only priority - but also your approach to migration that, I think, is extremely important in these times for Europe and beyond; and I am really glad that I am here in Malta again after having been here on Friday for the Heads of State and Government Summit and also to have today the opportunity – together with the Prime Minister [of Malta] Joseph Muscat, my friend Carmelo Abela [Minister of Home Affairs and National Security of Malta] and also the Italian Defence Minister [Roberta Pinotti] to be here in Malta on the flagship of Operation Sophia delivering the first diplomas to the Libyan Coast guards we trained.
I think that these three elements, just in few days, of the Maltese commitment to show the world the Europeans and also Africa that there is a different way of managing migration is a part of our European responsibility in these difficult times.
As I said today’s meeting is not only an important step in the implementation of the Action Plan that we agreed on here in Malta a year ago. I believe our presence is a political statement: with this gathering we are reaffirming that migration can only be managed effectively through cooperation and partnership. There are forces all around the world pushing for a totally different approach: an approach based on confrontation instead of cooperation; on building walls instead of building partnerships; on closures and bans rather than dialogue. This is not the European way and I believe this is not the African way. This is not the way we share around this table. Things are very often made more difficult by the political situation both in Europe and in Africa, because we know well that the temptation to sell easy illusions, rhetoric's, looking for short-term and fragile consensus sometimes is prevailing on the need to look for real answers and solutions. But we need our solutions centred, as you said George, on human beings. This means that on both sides we need to strengthen what unites us rather than what divides us even if sometimes this is or can be a difficult exercise.
Let me be totally clear from the very beginning: Europe does not and will not close its doors. We will continue to work with you and with our partners, all of us around this table – and I see so many, not only countries but also organisations we are partners with – to manage migration in a fair, humane and effective way. This is the European way to deal with migration. Also because – and as an Italian I think I can say it loud: we Europeans have been migrants ourselves up to few years ago.
And we should not forget that migration and refugee flows are not a European phenomenon. We said it clear last year here in Africa: You in Africa are hosting the vast majority of the world's refugees - internally. And there are more movements within Africa itself than towards Europe from Africa. So we have to put and keep things in the right perspective: setting examples from Africa also for the entire world. I think of what we see now in Uganda. So, we believe our common approach based on partnership and cooperation is the right one – not only because it is more just, and this to us is not irrelevant at all because in Europe we still put people first, but also because we see it is effective. We see the first results. This is well represented in the document we are going to discuss in the next session, but as George mentioned we have the duty – and I believe the shared responsibility to do much more, because last year 4 500 lives were lost on the Central Mediterranean route. We saved many: Operation Sophia alone saved more than 33 000 people at sea, many of them children and some babies.
But our common work will not have succeeded until this number of people losing their lives is greatly reduced and brought to zero, because until every one of these children of your great continent has a safer and better alternative, we will not have done our job. George said it very well: these are not numbers. These are real stories, families, relatives, friends, who often do not even know the fate of their dearest ones.
We should not prevent people from seeking a better life elsewhere but we must stop the tragedy at sea, and in the desert, and this is a shared responsibility we have: enter a different era with a global system of well managed mobility with a shared responsibility. This is not only a European interest and a European responsibility; it is an interest and a responsibility we all share, Europeans and Africans alike, governments, institutions, regional organisations, international organisations, NGOs, beyond nationality and beyond political ideologies. Because people come first and human lives come first.
One year ago, we all decided to take responsibility and to do our part with the Action Plan we agreed here in Valetta. And I am absolutely convinced that if we move forward on all the five pillars we decided to put in place, and fully implement them, we will indeed achieve our shared goals. This meeting today is in fact, first of all, an opportunity we have to recommit together to the five pillars we agreed together here in Malta one year ago.
The investment to tackle the root causes of migration must go together with the work to stop irregular flows, both fighting smugglers and through returns, but we must also facilitate, as George mentioned, regular flows and guarantee asylum to all those who have the right to it.
None of these five actions should and can be implemented alone and none of them is less or more important than others. If you look at the data, more than 60% of bilateral and multilateral funds under the Action Plan have been invested to address the root causes of migration.
This work on the long term drivers is essential to us because we know that this is the real solution to the issue and this we believe must be strengthened even further. To do so, the European Union has recently set up an [European] External Investment Plan, which will help us mobilise the private sector that has to come more to the picture, to stimulate investments exactly where they are more needed, and more difficult, which means in fragile situations.
But we should not forget the immediate objectives we have set as well, because every day, every single day, people still die on the route; those we see at sea, those we do not see in the desert. Each one of those lives is one too many and we can save them, protect them; prevent these dangerous journeys only if we manage together.
This is why we need to make sure that our actions have also an immediate impact, in particular on smuggling. So the work on the five pillars has to proceed in parallel. This is the approach taken in our draft joint conclusions, and I would like to thank in particular Mali, Ethiopia and Malta for the work to take everyone's priorities on board. These draft joint conclusions recommend broad action within each of the five pillars, from job creation to the promotion of regular channels for migration, from the fight against human trafficking to building a better system for human mobility. We need now to turn them into real actions, as we have managed to do in this first year of joint work.
Of course, in one year we have not yet put in place all the measures we needed and we wanted to. But it is encouraging to me to see that our work goes on, goes on well, not only bilaterally but also on a regional level.
And let me thank all the countries in the Rabat and in the Khartoum process, and the African Union for their readiness to engage. And it is a pleasure, if I can on a personal note, to see that the chairmanship of the African Union's Commission went from a good friend of mine, Ms [Nkosazana Dlamini ] Zuma, to another good friend of mine such as Moussa Faki [Chairperson of the African Union]. I think we will continue to work wonderfully well together.
As we discuss and negotiate, we might sometimes have the feeling that our interests diverge and the public messages might go in different directions.
But if we think of that seriously, that really is not the case. We share an interest; we share a responsibility to better manage migration flows. We all want to stop people dying in the Mediterranean - not people to die in the Mediterranean. We want all to improve living conditions along the route and Europeans know that we can help each other. Europe can help Africa also to understand some things and Africa can help Europe also to understand some things. I will give one example: I believe Europeans should understand that we need migration for our economies and for our welfare systems, with the current demographic trend we have to be sustainable. And Africans, on their side, should consider the costs of human trafficking, the loss of human lives and how dangerous also a brain drain can be for the continent. So we can help each other facing things pragmatically in a sense of cooperation, in a sense of partnership. We have a shared interest to find cooperative solutions.
One year ago, here in Valletta, we decided to share this challenge and to do it in full partnership, in full respect. Last September, I was proud to see that at the UN, the very same principles became the basis for the future Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees and we are working hand in hand with the IOM [International Organisation for Migration], with the UNHCR to make this true.
We have set an example together, us, all, I believe, for the world. Migration can be managed together through partnership, cooperation and respect. Not a self-evident message in these days. But that is our joint European, African, international way and we see that is starting to work. We now need to be ambitious in continuing to turn commitments into action. And I believe we can show the world that another way to deal with human mobility is indeed possible if we do that together.
I thank you very much and wish you all a very fruitful meeting that again, as I said, is not just a technical meeting but is highly political and relevant, not only for Europe, for Africa, but also for the entire international community. I thank you very much.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I133382