Paris, 28 August 2017
Check against delivery.
Thank you, President [Emmanuel Macron]. And Emmanuel, thank you very much for the invitation.
As we arrived, you told me that it was quite natural for me to be invited. That’s true, it is – as we work together in this area and many others. But it’s not always as natural as all that. So, I would like to thank you publicly for this invitation. This meeting is the first of its type and represents – to my mind – an investment in our common strength, i.e. acting together as Europeans.
I see that English is not an official language of this meeting, so I shall use Italian.
This is an extremely important meeting, confirming and bolstering the work begun by the European Union over the past year. This work is beginning to yield initial results on the path towards a system for managing – jointly, sustainably, and in a manner respectful of human rights – a highly complex phenomenon which requires strong partnership. It requires a sharing of responsibilities within the borders of the European Union. It requires commitment from all European citizens, but also – first and foremost – strong partnership with our friends in Africa and with international organisations, such as those of the United Nations system, e.g. the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
You will notice in the declaration what he have adopted today that each paragraph refers to one of the measures put in place by the European Union over the past year. This is accompanied by a clear commitment from those here today to underpin and enhance the declaration in a coherent way by setting up a task force to monitor the action to be taken. I should like to highlight some of the relevant points and give you some figures on what has been done and what will be done at European Union level.
Firstly, financial support: our friends in Africa have long been telling us that ‘the issue is poverty’. The European Union and its Member States together spend €20 billion per year in Africa in various areas – from development cooperation to private investment, from humanitarian aid to work on peace and security. We do not, therefore, need to come up with a new Marshall Plan – we already have a European plan in place, which is up and running and which can certainly be used even more effectively by all Europeans and Africans. In the coming days, we shall be launching a plan for private investment supported by the European Commission which could generate up to €44 billion of private investment for economic development in Africa. Projects worth €2 billion relating solely to the field of immigration have already been approved and are being implemented under the Trust Fund set up at the Valletta Summit. Of this amount €1 billion is destined for the countries of the Sahel alone. The European Union is spending €100 million to fund International Organisation for Migration centres in fourteen African countries, including Niger, Chad and Libya.
And we are already beginning to see the first results. Let’s take the case of Niger: in May 2016, 72 000 illegal migrants passed through Agadez – in May of this year, the number was 7 000. Therefore, where there is coherent investment and where there is also clear leadership from national and local authorities – for this, I should like to thank President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger – we also see results. More than 10 000 migrants have been assisted along this route by the IOM thanks to European Union funding and 6 000 have been helped to return voluntarily to their countries – including quite a few from Libya, something which had never happened on this scale until this year.
Our partnership with Africa therefore covers many different areas and the EU-Africa summit planned for the end of November will launch a new phase in our strategic partnership with the continent of Africa – not only on the topic of migration, but also on many others.
Libya has received €182 million in economic support from the European Union for projects related to the management of migration flows alone. €90 million has been spent on funding IOM and UNHCR activities within Libya. We have spoken – and for that, I should like to give him my thanks – with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of Libya about the possibility of giving the IOM and the UNHCR as easy access as possible to centres in very difficult security conditions. A further €46 million was given by the European Union to manage borders in the south, a project we shall be running together with the Italian Home Affairs Ministry.
And, obviously, the key point: support for the political process and UN mediation, in particular, the work of the new UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé.
Secondly, support – on sea and land – for border management and combating traffickers. There is a related security dimension to which the European Union is committed. Let me give you three specific examples:
Operation Sophia: 1 000 armed forces personnel under the European Union flag at sea, tens of thousands of people rescued, 117 traffickers arrested, 476 vessels intercepted. 136 border guards have been trained, with a further 78 beginning their training in Italy – under Operation Sophia – in the coming weeks. We have decided to start monitoring the activities of the coastguard we have trained together with the Libyan authorities.
A second point, briefly: European Union civilian and military missions and operations in the Sahel. We are already present in Mali and Niger. In the coming days, I shall be proposing – it has also been the subject of discussion here today – to intensify the European Union presence in the Sahel in support of the security forces of these countries. I was happy to be able to announce to them today that, over the weekend, the European Union signed a contract for €50 million to support the multinational Joint Force of the G5 Sahel countries in their fight against trafficking and terrorism. I hope this example will be followed by many countries, including some Member States of the European Union.
Third point – and one which has been the subject of much discussion, particular in Italy, in recent days: a commitment from the European Union to add to the tools at our disposal a system of coordinated – and possibly joint – management of the border of Libya with its southern neighbours. Work on this began in Brussels last year, and we are now ready to take things forward.
Joint action is therefore under way and is beginning to bear fruit. This works now needs to be stepped up and I believe that today’s meeting will provide a major boost, with everybody present taking on major responsibility. I also believe that the huge scale of the challenge reminds us that only together – whether as Europeans or together with our African partners in the Mediterranean – can we provide an effective response and mobilise the necessary resources. Locking ourselves away in an illusory sense of isolation will not bring results – we need instead to invest in being together.