Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini
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 a 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 UN Special Envoy for Libya and I will meet the Prime Minister [of Libya, Fayez Mustafa al-] Serraj 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 in 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 implemented 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- but 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 el-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.
Remarks by Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos
All our elements today are interconnected to comprehensively manage migration in all its aspects, from both the external and internal side.
As mentioned by Federica, the actions that we propose to launch in cooperation with Libya and its neighbouring countries, if they are rapidly and fully implemented, they can substantially reduce the irregular migration flows in the Central Mediterranean and the loss of lives at sea.
These actions complement and complete the work we started last year in the Eastern Mediterranean through the EU-Turkey Statement on the one hand, and on the other hand through the Partnership Framework in relation to Sub-Saharan African countries.
Successfully reducing the irregular flows in the Central as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, and at the same time improving the conditions of migrants and refugees in all the countries eighbouring the EU, including in Libya, will also affect our internal policies on migration.
-facilitate the discussions on solidarity and responsibility,
-help us to advance on the revision of the Common European Asylum System
-and facilitate the possibility of returning irregular migrants.
All this requires a collective effort of the EU and all its Member States, as well as of other key international actors, first of all the International Organisation of Migration, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Of key importance will be for us to urgently develop cooperation with all the relevant actors in Libya and the neighbouring countries, and mobilise adequate resources.
This is in the interest not only of the EU and of the migrants and refugees stranded in Libya, but also in the interest of the reconstruction of Libya as a country.
Our European Border and Coast Guard as well as Europol will play a key role in this new approach that we are proposing to adopt in the Central Mediterranean. Both agencies will actively contribute to the dismantling of smugglers and the organised crime networks hiding behind them.
In that sense, the European Border and Coast Guard is a central piece, not just to better secure our external borders, but it also interconnects our internal and external migration policy.
In 9 months we were able to adopt it; in the past 3 months we have made important progress to operationalise it. We now have different pools in place for rapid reaction and for return, increasing both the human resources as well as the technical equipment to assist Member States.
What is now urgently needed is for Member States to continue to cooperate and fill the gaps.
The vulnerability assessments process is also critical. The Agency must ensure a priority process for identifying the most urgent vulnerabilities.
Finally, the European Border and Coast Guard will also have a broadened mandate on return and cooperation with third countries.
That is why I am pleased that today we also adopt recommendations to the Council to authorise the opening of negotiations with Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Let me however remind that the European Border and Coast Guard does not replace the responsibilities and competences of Member States. It rather complements and supports their duties.
The first three months have shown great progress, now it is important to keep fulfilling all outstanding gaps. Fully operationalising the European Border and Coast Guard requires continuous and long-lasting efforts and a comprehensive approach.
The security environment is of course indivisible from the rest of our package today on getting back to Schengen, on better protecting our external borders, and managing the flows from Libya.
Today our 4th report on progress towards a genuine and effective Security Union is presented. It focusses on information sharing, protecting soft targets, cybersecurity and data protection in the security area.
All these are critical areas for the security of our citizens, and major priorities for our actions in the near future.
In the same vein, our efforts to return to a normalisation of the Schengen area must also be coordinated. We currently have temporary border controls in place: these are exceptional measures for an exceptional situation.
My position on Schengen has always been crystal clear. Our and my personal goal remains to gradually phase out the current temporary border controls and return to a normal functioning of the Schengen area as soon as possible.
Despite the progress and steady improvements over the past months, we are still not back to normal unfortunately.
That is why today we recommend prolonging temporary internal border controls in the same 5 Member States for an additional, strict and limited period of 3 months.
I want to be clear however: we only recommend that controls continue as far as needed, and always as a last resort. We explicitly encourage Member States to use alternatives, in particular police checks in the vicinity of the border.
These controls cannot go on forever and they will not. Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of the European Union, the most tangible example of European integration, and we must do everything to safeguard, defend and protect it.