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We thought - with the Ministers - that it was a right to give you the news immediately: that the decision to launch the naval operation has just been taken. It is probably the first time the European Union takes the issue of migration so seriously [and decides to launch an operation] in such a fast way, with unanimity and unity. I would say this is a sign that European Union is going to turn the page.
Less than two months ago, the European Council tasked us to prepare an operation in the Mediterranean, to save lives, first of all, and disrupt the business model of human traffickers and smugglers. The operation is being launched today. The target, let me be very clear, are not the migrants, the targets are those who are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths. It is part of our efforts to save lives.
We will start implementing the first phase of the operation in the coming days. This covers information gathering and patrolling on the high seas to support the detection and monitoring of smuggling networks.
Before moving to phase two and phase three of the operation, the Council will assess whether the conditions for transition beyond the first phase have been met. This does not mean a passive approach but on the contrary, as you have seen in the last weeks, myself, together with all the Ministers, we have been working both with our regional partners in the UN framework to make sure that this can happen in the most reasonable time we can foresee.
But this is just one part of a bigger strategy, this is one part of the work we are doing. From the external affairs' perspective, our work is focusing on what happens before men, women and children reach the Mediterranean shores. That is why I met the five Foreign ministers of the Sahel countries just last week, in particular with a special focus on Niger and the region of Agadez. That is why we are working with the African Union on our Summit in Malta later this year. And with the African countries in particular we are working on economic opportunities, employment opportunities for the young people, the control of the borders and the fight against international crime and criminal organisations.
We also work on an everyday basis on the root causes, namely poverty and crises and conflicts in particular in Syria, in Yemen and in Libya, as well as with the UN agencies dealing with migrants and refugees in countries of transit. Let me say that the European Union is the first contributor to the IOM and to the UNHCR that are still working in Libya to assist migrants and refugees. We are working very closely with them in this respect.
The naval operation will be conducted in partnership with our international partners, with countries and organisations. Let me thank all Member States for their unanimous decision to launch the operation in particular those that are contributing to the operation from North, South, East and West of the European Union. That is also a way of being united under the commandment of the Operation Commander, Admiral Credendino. And a particular thank to General de Rousiers who has been working in a fantastic way in these past two months and he will answer to your technical questions.
Let me also say that this naval operation is part of a broader external strategy on migration. The external part of our work is effective only if it is in conjunction with an effective internal strategy because when desperate people knock on our door, we cannot avoid the question on how to welcome them here in Europe.
This is not a question for Foreign Ministers only. I expect the European Council later this week to give an effective answer to this question. With this I leave you to the technical briefing and I will meet you at four o' clock this afternoon for the rest of our work.
Thank you very much.
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