Check against delivery!
As you know very well, in the last two years we have been working, I can add finally, very intensively to reduce human suffering and the loss of lives, especially in the Central Mediterranean. If I can give you a number, [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia alone saved last year more than 32 000 people and apprehended more than 100 smugglers. Still, last year we faced more than 4 500 losses of lives in the Central Mediterranean route and these are not numbers; these are persons with stories, names and every single life counts.
So this is why we thought it is essential that we all do more, all, meaning all together. This is why we presented today jointly a package of additional concrete measures to contribute to the Malta Summit discussion of the Heads of State and Government and to suggest, as I said, concrete actions that can be done; that can bring some positive results with an envelope of €200 million for 2017 to support these concrete actions. There is no magic solution, there is no immediate solution to manage a phenomenon that is complex, extremely complex, but there are things that can be usefully done, as I said, first of all, to save lives, disrupt the business model of the smugglers and to protect people.
We know very well that the real long-term solution lies in two difficult things to achieve but on which we are working daily. On one side, peace and stability in Libya, and I met just yesterday Martin Kobler, the United Nations Special Representative for Libya, and I will meet the Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez Mustafa al-] Sarraj next week just ahead of the Malta Summit because the diplomatic work of the European Union with the neighbouring countries, with the African Union, with the Arab League, with the UN is going on constantly. We will have this issue on the agenda of the next Foreign Affairs Council also. And, on the other side, the real solution comes with the economic development of Africa and here also our daily work is going on with the Migration Compacts we are implementing with 5 key countries [Senegal, Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Mali], with the [European] External Investment Plan, with the Trust Funds and the Valetta Summit that we had last year with the African partners.
So as the work goes on these two main issues, main elements that will bring in the mid-, long-term the real solution to the problem, there are things we can do right now more and more together to improve the situation. I will for sure let Dimitris [Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship] enter more into the details of some of the actions of the package; I will only highlight three elements of how we believe we can increase and improve our collective work to manage the Central Mediterranean route. One: increase the training of the Libyan coast guards; this is essential because the losses of lives we see are more and more in the territorial waters of Libya and so it is a Libyan responsibility to prevent these losses of lives and to dismantle the traffickers’ networks on the Libyan coast and on the Libyan waters. So we are ready to help, to train, to support in a sense of partnership, empowering and enabling the Libyan authorities to manage to do this work. And we are doing that already but the proposal is to increase significantly the training of the Libyan coast guards.
Second element: the work on the Southern borders of Libya. Here again we have started already our work, trying to facilitate a common approach between Libya, Chad and Niger, in particular, managing a complicated border through which migrants enter Libya, but which is also a sensitive border in terms of security for the neighbours of Libya to its South. We have as you know, or as you might know, a presence there with missions and operations of the European Union that we are regionalising, so that we can provide more support to monitor and manage the Southern border of Libya better from the inside and from the outside.
Third element I would mention shortly is the important work that we can do to support the IOM [International Organisation for Migration] and the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] in their capacity, or possibility, to work inside Libya. We know very well that the situation of the migrants who are currently present in the country is a very serious one that needs to be tackle with the highest standards when it comes to human rights. By the way, human rights are always part of our programmes including the training of coastguards in Libya; and with a particular attention to women rights if I can underline this aspect that is really important giving the composition of the flows. We have discussed and I have met in these last weeks both Filippo Grandi [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and the General Director of the IOM Mr [William Lacy] Swing to see how the European Union can support more both IOM and the UNHCR in order for them to work more, to have more access, to work better inside Libya – that would be for us the only guarantee that international standards are met, lives are protected and the management of the flow inside the country is done properly.
Obviously there are complicated issues to tackle, including security, and this is why we are working together both, as I said, with the Libyan authorities, with the Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj] but also with the municipalities, with Martin Kobler for the UN, with [Filippo] Grandi and with [William Lacy] Swing to see how we can more effectively allow them to work in this respect.
I will finish by saying that the general principle that guide us is, first of all, strengthening the Libyan authorities and their capacity to operate and doing this in the sense of partnership. Respect and partnership is our guiding principle as it is for our wok on the [Migration] Compacts with our African partners, the same goes in this case because we see a shared responsibility. We are here to help, we are here to support, we are here to do our part; we also need others to do their own part, but again the sense is that of working together, each with our responsibilities and limits, but together to try and save lives because we see people dying in the Mediterranean.
There are so many other stories that we do not see or we do not hear, still they exist, and we have the human duty, moral duty, to prevent these terrible sufferings. Thank you.
Questions and answers
Q It is a question actually for both of you; I do not know who can give me the answer. In the proposal of the Commission, the Commission says, it would like to see EUR 200 million for all the measures for the whole package, which is quite a modest amount of money compared to the EUR 6 billion for example, which is earmarked for Turkey. So could you tell us maybe how much money the Commission hopes, expects the Member States to come up with to support this package?
First of all, I would like to clarify the fact that the numbers you are referring to are not properly precise, because the amount of money that we have, as you said, earmarked or in some cases already delivered for the support of the Syrian refugees in Turkey is not 6 but EUR 3 billion. Then, the two situations cannot be compared. And it is not by chance that neither Dimitris [Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship] or myself referred to something that we have seen in the media in the last weeks; some ideas or some readings of work ongoing to have something parallel, if not even inspired by the EU-Turkey deal. The two situations are completely different. The two main countries are completely different, the composition of the flow is completely different and the set of measures is completely different. So there is no comparison that can be done. The two things are completely distinct, one from the other. In terms of money allocated, this is the amount of money we put on the table for this year – and by the way, this is also another difference: the money for Turkey, as you know, was for more years. And by the way, the money was and is not for Turkey but for the Syrian refugees. In this case we have this package of EUR 200 million that goes on top of a lot of other measures and other funds that we have and that we are currently using for other initiatives that are currently underway. As you might know or remember, we have a EUR 100 million package of funds that we are currently using to assist Libya and Libyan authorities on a different set of issues that do not relate strictly to migration management, but with improving the situation on the ground in Libya, which is also somehow related to the overall objective of creating stability and trying to promote peace in the country. And we have the other instruments that were launched for instance at the Valletta Summit, the Trust Funds and, as I shortly referred to, the [European] External Investment Plan – this is something that can be, probably not for Libya, but for other countries of the northern part of Africa - resources that could be used merging private and public investments for creating development and job creation. But apart from that, the precise question was about expectations on the money from Member States: I guess I cannot anticipate expectations. What I would like to say is that some Member States are already, to my knowledge, investing or working bilaterally on this with, by the way, measures and initiatives that fit very well in this common European Union framework. So the idea is that of a synergy between not only the funds that the European budget and the Member States' budget can put together – the higher the contributions from Member States, the better – but also in terms of policies. This is a framework, this is a package of concrete options and actions that can easily and fruitfully complement and accompany the work that some Member States in particular are already doing or are going to do or are planning to do in the future. And namely – obviously the first that comes to our minds are obviously – Italy but also Malta. There is a bilateral work that is ongoing, there are also obviously bilateral contacts that we are having naturally with these national authorities and the approach is a common one. So this is a set of concrete measures that can easily and I think fruitfully frame, accompany, integrate, complement single Member States' initiatives with a common effort. Dimitris [Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship] and myself, and the President [of the European Commissioner, Jean Claude Juncker] himself many times, referred to the need to act in solidarity. And this is true also, if not first of all, for the management of the Central Mediterranean route. So this will be something we will have to see at the Malta Summit next week. I will be there together with President Juncker, so this will be a discussion to have next week and maybe a question to put at the end of the Malta Summit.
Q Given the weak political situation in Libya, I was wondering: who do you expect to engage with for these deals? Is it only the Government of National Accord or are you also thinking of other actors? And to put it bluntly: do you not fear that European money could be going to the wrong players?
First of all, we work with the Government of National Accord, with Prime Minister of [Fayez ] al-Sarraj, we also work with the municipalities. I mentioned that, and this is important, first of all, because these are authorities, local authorities that have a direct link to their people and have a sort of control of the territory and are authorities that get their legitimacy directly from elections that have taken place in the past. So our cooperation with the municipalities has proven to be so far on other kinds of projects – on development, on assistance – useful, but also trying to work on the political side of the agreements. We have a very careful approach, obviously, on how the projects are implemented. This is true for all kinds of projects, not only the migration related ones – who gets the money, where does the money goes? And this is obviously going to continue to be the case, especially in places where the situation is complicated and difficult. But we have, as you know, a Delegation that is constantly in contact with the authorities in Libya. We have different missions and operations acting to help and support the Libyan authorities. And as I said, next week, I am going to meet again Prime Minister [Fayez ] al-Sarraj to discuss with him also this. I want to stress not only this; because our work with Libya is not only work we do through the migration angle. The work we do with Libya and for Libya is mainly for the stabilisation of the country, finding peace after so much tension. And I was just last week meeting at length the Tunisian Prime Minister – we support fully the efforts that Tunisia together with Algeria and Egypt are trying to bring forward to find a political consensus on the country. And we are also working on other issues, as you know well, Operation Sophia for instance is working on the embargo. So our work on Libya and with Libya – more than on Libya, with Libya – goes far beyond the migration issue. And I would like to stress this, because we understand fully – fully – that this is only one side of the work we need to do together. But it is not one side that we can pretend we do not see, because the loss of lives still takes place inside the country; living conditions for the migrants inside Libya are terrible; south of Libya – in the desert, we do not see people dying in a desert, this does not mean they do not. And the work we have started to do with Niger in this respect is remarkable. You know that the number of crossings in Agadez has gone down from 70,000 in May to 1,500 in November. So this means that cooperation and partnership brings results and saves lives. This is exactly the kind of approach we will to continue to have: human lives first, and trying also to frame this in the most comprehensive manner as we always say.
Q[EN translation from Italian – Italian original to be added] For High Representative Mogherini: six months ago, when you presented the new framework for cooperation with Africa, putting migration in the centre of relations with African countries, you said it was not possible to make a Migration Compact with Libya. Has something changed in the meantime? Are we going towards a Migration Compact with Libya? And what do you say to those who claim that Operation Sophia is a pull factor for migrants? And a question to Commissioner Avramopoulos: will the election in Germany be the key factor to go back to Schengen? Because at the end of the day the impression we have is that you are taking a political decision. The situation has improved hugely, it is much better than two years ago – so is the German or the Austrian political situation the key factor in your decision on Schengen?
[EN translation] We said that the situation in Libya is a particular one compared to any other country, and certainly to any other African country. Because of this, Libya was not among the first countries we developed the first five compacts, countries from Sub-Saharan Africa. This is still the case, and this is why I insisted so much on the fact that our main focus these days – as well as in the previous weeks and months and in the weeks and months to come – is on the stabilisation of Libya, on searching for a political solution to a tense situation that has been going on for too many years. This is why – yesterday with the UN [Special Representative for Libya Martin] Kobler and next week with Fayez al-Sarraj – we will be discussing in particular about how the European Union can help Libya find unity, control of its territory, protection of its citizens and overcome the crisis it has been in for too many years. This is the main objective we have with Libya; it goes well beyond migration policy. What we are proposing today is not a compact with Libya. We are proposing measures through which the European Union can increase and improve its contribution to the management of the Central Mediterranean route. First of all because we have seen that we have done a lot; I have mentioned the number of lives saved by [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia alone: over 32,000. I do not know if saving lives can be called a ''pull factor'' – I am proud of it, because as an Italian I remember very well that two, three years ago we Italians were calling on Europe to do its part and to not turn away from the management of the dramatic loss of human lives in the Strait of Sicily. Today, the fact that the European Union is saving human lives in that same Strait through a military operation of its own is something good the European Union is doing – and it is not just saving lives, but also handing over to the Italian judicial authorities over 100 smugglers, neutralising hundreds of smuggling boats. So there is work being done at sea, where we can operate – in international waters – to dismantle smuggling networks. We have always said that this would not be an easy, quick job. The result is immediate for each of those 32,000 people saved, but there are many more left to save and, especially, living conditions of migrants along the route still need to be improved. That is why the measures we are proposing today aim to support Libya but also international organisations such as the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] and IOM [International Organisation for Migration] to allow them to work – which they know how to do and which they are doing brilliantly in many other parts of the world; our cooperation with them is very strong, from Afghanistan to Sub-Saharan Africa, and will remain strong – but support them even further to allow them to face a greatly dramatic situation. We cannot pretend not to see that in Libya migrants are in a dramatic situation, that there are still people losing their lives near the Libyan coasts; and also the Libyan authorities cannot not take care of this problem. So it is not a compact. A compact is based on the idea of creating conditions, especially economic conditions, of local development for a different management of migration. Here it is about strengthening some measures – some of which we are already doing – with more funding, more cooperation from Member States, more political determination from everyone and European solidarity, to try and manage a situation where, although it has improved since when two or three years ago the European Union was not as engaged in this issue as it is today, we see that a lot still needs to be done. On the pull factor I think I have already replied. What we are doing with Operation Sophia in international waters is, on the one hand, saving lives, yes – and I would like to remind that the presence of vessels at sea saving human lives is first of all a moral duty of ours, but also that their absence would not discourage people ready to embark on such a dangerous journey, often including with their young children. I do not think that the presence of a vessel at sea makes for an incentive, but it can save lives and this is very important for us – and we will continue to do that. But [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia does not only do rescue operations – this among its duties, its goals –, it is foremost engaged in dismantling the smugglers' business networks with some first results showing already. With today's measures these results can only increase also with the cooperation of Libyan authorities on the ground.
Q [EN translation from Italian – Italian original to be added] The comparison that has been made between policies adopted today towards Libya and those towards Turkey seems inappropriate to me. If anything, it would be more appropriate to look at what had been proposed by Italy – though it did not happen – for Tunisia; that is, the idea of supporting local coast guards to prevent migrants from crossing territorial waters and bring them back. Am I right in thinking that this precedent is among those you studied for this solution? I mean keeping migrants in Libya and then trying to improve their living conditions by cooperating with international organisations. Commissioner Avramopoulos, just one short question: can you ensure the determination of the Commission to open infringement procedures against those Member States that are not implementing the relocation decisions that, as the Commission said many times, are now EU law? They are not applying, not implementing EU law. So once the moment arrives in September this year and it is clear that they have not done what they had to do, are you going to open infringement procedures against these Member States?
[EN translation] We have been training the Libyan coast guard for several months already. [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia has been engaged in this task – in addition to its original mandate – since right after last summer. I think we have completed the second training module. It has been with hundreds of people, carefully selected – for obvious reasons – not only by Libyan but also by European authorities. The training is going really well. We Italians know well that in the past the training of coast guards or security personnel had encountered some logistic or motivational, so to speak, difficulties, difficulties related to the sustainability of the projects. In this case, I can say that the training is going really well and is already bringing to an expansion of the originally foreseen phase. So it is not a completely new element brought by this package. The news is the proposal to intensify this work, including with more resources, and this responds to needs signalled by the Libyan authorities last year – the reason for which we had started this additional training. Why? First, because, as I have just said, we see that human lives are lost closer each time to the Libyan coast. [EUNAVFOR Med] Operation Sophia does not go into Libyan waters; our mandate is limited to international waters. That is where we operate and where we are efficient – in stopping smugglers, neutralising smuggling boats, and saving lives. Within Libyan territorial waters, it is the Libyans' task to do so. And they are rightly telling us: ''we need to be in a condition to do that''. That is what the training is for – in order to avoid that that very high number of people who are still dying at sea, within Libyan territorial waters, can be saved by Libyan authorities, and so that there can be anti-smuggling activities by the Libyan authorities. There is also another very important aspect which does not directly concern migration – or rather, it is only linked to it: the fact that for the Libyans it is very important to have an operational coast guard to guarantee security in Libyan territorial waters; migration is a fundamental issue when we speak about Libya but it is not the only one, security is also an aspect. And it is also an economic aspect, because as soon as the Libyan coast guard will be able to guarantee security within territorial waters, fishing activities in those areas will also be able to go back to full pace. This will also offer economic activities to those local communities that are currently sometimes using boats more for human smuggling than for fishing. It is a situation different from that of any other country in the past or present, so I would not even make comparisons with Tunisia. The need we see to support even further – because we are already supporting both IOM [International Organisation for Migration] and UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] , also in Libya – is due to the fact that we see the difficulty of managing – with the adequate international human rights standards – migrants in Libya and offering these migrants the opportunity of avoiding criminal networks including through voluntary return mechanisms or resettlement to Europe in the case of people in need of international protection, in accordance with international law rules and standards.
Q Quick question if I may to High Representative on the Kosovo-Serbia High Level Dialogue that you facilitated yesterday evening. How do you see the follow-up of this meeting? Do you have already some concrete plans for follow-up on that? And since you have issued an additional statement this morning regretting that not everybody respected the spirit of the agreement to refrain from comments and leave the tensions behind, why was such a statement necessary and to whom and to what were you actually referring?
I thank you for the question because, as always, the Dialogue finished yesterday very late. So I think it is a good opportunity to share first-hand the results of that meeting. First of all, I would like to say that it was a meeting that I convened because the tensions were going high – clearly and worryingly high in the last weeks – and it was a positive, even if not the easiest of the meetings, but a positive and constructive meeting, where I have clearly seen the commitment, the determination, the leadership of all the four participants. And the recommitment, strong recommitment to engage in the Dialogue at the highest political level to solve a series of issues that we have on the table – be it the implementation of previous agreements or outstanding issues that the parties have, and on which the European Union as a facilitator is providing some space for solutions that will be discussed in the coming days. So when you ask about the plans for the future: it is to reconvene a session of the Dialogue in the coming weeks – we are checking the dates, so I cannot make any announcements as of today, as calendars of different sides might be busy. But we are thinking of reconvening a Dialogue in very short time and in the meantime having our teams working on concrete options for moving forward on some of the issues that are outstanding on the table and that we know very well, because we have worked in this for a long time. My Spokesperson released, I think this morning, an additional comment, because yesterday among the things we agreed is to focus on the Dialogue in terms of procedures, but also in sense of spirit. I saw yesterday respect and a constructive approach around the table. And obviously the more we comment, the more they comment on each other, the less this constructive sense of engaging in the Dialogue becomes sustainable for all parties. So I hope that in the coming hours and days, we can make sure that everybody comments a bit less on each other and we engage more and concretely on solving the problems that are still on the table. I would like to add that one important element and one important outcome of the meeting yesterday night was that the clear European perspective of both, Belgrade and Pristina, was a key element in our conversations. And the regional dimension of this cooperation is key and is recognised as key by all actors of the Dialogue and by the European Union that is and will continue to be a key supporter of, first of all, the regional integration and of the European perspective of the Western Balkans. This is the cornerstone of our engagement and the Dialogue is an essential element for that.
Q I have two questions to the High-Representative / Vice-President. As you have said, the root causes of the long-term solutions for the migrants is focusing on Libya's stability and also the economic development in Africa. But is not the political problem in Sub-Saharan Africa missed here because those things are the root causes. We know many countries in Africa, for example Eritrea is without constitution, Ethiopia is under state of emergency. I do not see here the political aspect that the EU is trying to do; I would like to know more on this. The second question is: can you comment on the situation in Ethiopia which is a partner of the EU but which arrested its main opposition leader and charged him with terrorism.
You are perfectly right, it is an essential element, not only among the root causes of migration but also of our daily work with our African partners. The political situation in many of the countries, in some cases the security situation in many of the countries. I travelled myself to Africa many times in the last two years exactly to tackle these issues and I was just yesterday night, after the Dialogue, on the phone with President Macky Sall of Senegal, tackling the issue of Gambia, where we are trying to support in the most effective manner, also with Commissioner [for International Cooperation and Development Neven] Mimica, who is going to Addis Ababa in the coming days. So our engagement with Africa as a whole, Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, also through our work with the African Union and with the sub-regional organisations like ECOWAS, is constant and is aimed at creating political systems and open societies that allow every single citizen to find its place and to feel ownership of its own country. By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a successful outcome to the African Union Summit in the coming weekend to make a wise choice on the new Commission and President of the Commission of the African Union. So we work also there in a sense of partnership and our common European engagement towards Africa will even culminate this year in an EU-Africa Summit that we will have in November, where not only the migratory issues but also the economic and the political developments are going to be key.