Informal meeting of EU heads of state or government
On 3 February, EU heads of state or government will meet in Valletta, Malta, for an informal summit. The meeting will consist of two parts.
In the morning, the 28 EU heads of state or government will address the external dimension of migration. They are expected to focus their discussions on the Central Mediterranean route and Libya.
Over lunch leaders are expected to exchange views on other international challenges. They are also likely to talk briefly about the follow up and implementation of European Council conclusions as well as ways how to better communicate their decisions.
The afternoon session will be an occasion for the 27 leaders to prepare for the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties on 25 March 2017.
The meeting will be hosted by the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk. President Jean-Claude Juncker will represent the European Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
External dimension of migration [Finding solutions to migratory pressures]
Since the start of the migration crisis the EU has managed to reduce significantly the number of irregular migrants entering Europe. Preliminary data from Frontex indicate a 72% decrease in detections in 2016 across the whole of the EU compared to 2015. By far the largest share of this reduction was recorded along the Eastern Mediterranean route, following the EU decision to fully apply the Schengen Border Code (end the wave-through approach) and the EU – Turkey Statement.
Today the main route for irregular migrants, accounting for around 95% of all irregular migrants entering the EU, is across the Central Mediterranean. The vast majority of arrivals using this route are of African nationalities and almost 90% of all departures are from Libya. Furthermore, and in contrast to the many refugees who arrived along the Eastern Mediterranean route, a large number of these nationals are likely to have their asylum requests rejected. In other words, many of them are irregular economic migrants who should be returned to their home countries.
Overwhelmingly, (around 90% according to Europol data from 2015) migrants are exploited by human smugglers and traffickers who make an estimated 3 – 6 bn euro yearly profit on this illicit trade, leading to an increased number of dead or missing at sea.
At the first working session in Valletta EU heads of state or government will discuss the external aspects of migration, with a clear focus on the Central Mediterranean route. With the spring approaching, leaders are expected to agree on a number of immediate and concrete measures to stem migratory flows, break the business model of smugglers and save lives.
Leaders will focus in particular on the need to step up cooperation with the Libyan authorities and provide them with support in the area of capacity building. The EU is expected to confirm its support for the Government of National Accord and step up its cooperation and assistance to Libyan regional and local communities as well as international organisations active in the country.
Among the priorities will be to train, equip and support the Libyan national coast guard, increase efforts to disrupt the smuggling business by involving Libya and relevant international partners and improve the socio-economic situation of local communities in Libya. Furthermore, leaders are expected to call for increased cooperation with UNHCR and IOM in particular when it comes to ensuring adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, enhancing information campaigns aimed at migrants and stepping up voluntary return activities. Leaders are also expected to emphasise the need to help reduce the pressure on Libya’s land border by enhancing Libya’s border management capacity and by working with neighbouring countries.
Preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties
The second working session in Malta will be devoted to preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, that will be celebrated in Rome on 25 March 2017. It will be an opportunity for the 27 leaders to reach common understanding on what they would like the Rome meeting to offer.
The discussions will build upon the political reflection on the future of the EU amongst the 27 member states which was launched immediately after the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016 and which continued in Bratislava on 16 September 2016. [Political reflection on the future of the EU]
Remarks by President Donald Tusk ahead of the informal summit in Malta
Our main goal for the Malta summit is to stem the flow of irregular migration from Libya to Europe. This is the only way to stop people dying in the deserts and at sea. This is also the only way to gain control over migration in Europe.
After my talks with Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni yesterday in Rome and this morning with Libyan Prime Minister Al-Sarraj on their bilateral cooperation, I can say that this goal is within our reach. I also had talks with other EU leaders, including President Hollande yesterday and Chancellor Merkel this morning, about this bilateral cooperation between Italy and Libya and we agreed on the need to support Italy in this cooperation, especially the Memorandum of Understanding which should be signed in Rome, I hope today or tonight. Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing the responsibility.
Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with Prime Minister of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj
EU leaders will be discussing in Malta how the European Union and its Member States can better cooperate with Libya. We have a shared interest in and determination to reduce the number of irregular migrants risking their lives crossing the Central Mediterranean. This is not sustainable for Europe nor for Libya, as the smugglers let people drown and undermine the authority of the Libyan state for their own profit. Tomorrow I will put forward additional concrete and operational measures to strengthen our work, to more effectively tackle the smuggling and trafficking networks and help manage migratory flows more effectively.
Europe has proved it is able to close down irregular routes of migration, as we did on the Eastern Mediterranean route. We have discussed the example of our cooperation with Turkey and other countries in this part of the region. Now it is time to close down the route from Libya to Italy. I have spoken at length with the Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni about it yesterday and I can assure you that it is within our reach. What we need is the full determination to do that. We owe it first and foremost to those who suffer and risk their lives. But we also owe it to Italians and all Europeans.
Although it is only one issue of several in our strategic relationship, I am nevertheless glad for the opportunity to have discussed it with the Prime Minister today.
Let me say that the EU is fully behind the efforts of the Libyan people to find an inclusive political settlement, and the United Nations efforts to that end. I reiterated the EU’s support for the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord in implementing the Libyan Political Agreement. What is needed now is further outreach in a constructive manner to those in Libya who have not yet rallied around the new institutions.
The Libyans have shown determination in the fight against terrorism. However, the threat remains in Libya and in neighbouring countries, and sustained efforts will be needed to win this struggle outright so that terrorism is beaten and does not return.
The humanitarian and security situation in Libya has devastated the prospects of the civilian population and their hopes of a normal life. The EU will continue to provide assistance to the Libyan people. We urge all Libyans to put aside their differences so that we can engage further and enhance our relationship. As neighbours, we share many common interests, including stability and prosperity on both sides of the Mediterranean.
Let me finally turn to another crisis high on the European Union’s radar screen; the situation in eastern Ukraine, where we again are witnessing a sharp increase in violence. The ceasefire violations that have taken place over the last few days have demonstrated a new level of intensity and brutality. The humanitarian situation in the Avdiivka region is getting critical. We are reminded again of the continued challenge posed by Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine as well as the threat to the implementation of the Minsk agreement. The fighting must stop immediately. The ceasefire must be honoured. Russia should use its influence to disengage the Russian-backed separatists. Weapons need to be withdrawn and the OSCE given unhindered access.
United we stand, divided we fall
In order to best prepare our discussion in Malta about the future of the European Union of 27 member states, and in light of the conversations I have had with some of you, let me put forward a few reflections that I believe most of us share.
The challenges currently facing the European Union are more dangerous than ever before in the time since the signature of the Treaty of Rome. Today we are dealing with three threats, which have previously not occurred, at least not on such a scale.
The first threat, an external one, is related to the new geopolitical situation in the world and around Europe. An increasingly, let us call it, assertive China, especially on the seas, Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa, with radical Islam playing a major role, as well as worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable. For the first time in our history, in an increasingly multipolar external world, so many are becoming openly anti-European, or Eurosceptic at best. Particularly the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy.
The second threat, an internal one, is connected with the rise in anti-EU, nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU itself. National egoism is also becoming an attractive alternative to integration. In addition, centrifugal tendencies feed on mistakes made by those, for whom ideology and institutions have become more important than the interests and emotions of the people.
The third threat is the state of mind of the pro-European elites. A decline of faith in political integration, submission to populist arguments as well as doubt in the fundamental values of liberal democracy are all increasingly visible.
In a world full of tension and confrontation, what is needed is courage, determination and political solidarity of Europeans. Without them we will not survive. If we do not believe in ourselves, in the deeper purpose of integration, why should anyone else? In Rome we should renew this declaration of faith. In today’s world of states-continents with hundreds of millions of inhabitants, European countries taken separately have little weight. But the EU has demographic and economic potential, which makes it a partner equal to the largest powers. For this reason, the most important signal that should come out of Rome is that of readiness of the 27 to be united. A signal that we not only must, but we want to be united.
Let us show our European pride. If we pretend we cannot hear the words and we do not notice the decisions aimed against the EU and our future, people will stop treating Europe as their wider homeland. Equally dangerously, global partners will cease to respect us. Objectively speaking, there is no reason why Europe and its leaders should pander to external powers and their rulers. I know that in politics, the argument of dignity must not be overused, as it often leads to conflict and negative emotions. But today we must stand up very clearly for our dignity, the dignity of a united Europe – regardless of whether we are talking to Russia, China, the US or Turkey. Therefore, let us have the courage to be proud of our own achievements, which have made our continent the best place on Earth. Let us have the courage to oppose the rhetoric of demagogues, who claim that European integration is beneficial only to the elites, that ordinary people have only suffered as its result, and that countries will cope better on their own, rather than together.
We must look to the future – this was your most frequent request in our consultations over the past months. And there is no doubt about it. But we should never, under any circumstances, forget about the most important reasons why 60 years ago we decided to unite Europe. We often hear the argument that the memory of the past tragedies of a divided Europe is no longer an argument, that new generations do not remember the sources of our inspiration. But amnesia does not invalidate these inspirations, nor does it relieve us of our duty to continuously recall the tragic lessons of a divided Europe. In Rome, we should strongly reiterate these two basic, yet forgotten, truths: firstly, we have united in order to avoid another historic catastrophe, and secondly, that the times of European unity have been the best times in all of Europe’s centuries-long history. It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent.
We must therefore take assertive and spectacular steps that would change the collective emotions and revive the aspiration to raise European integration to the next level. In order to do this, we must restore the sense of external and internal security as well as socio-economic welfare for European citizens. This requires a definitive reinforcement of the EU external borders; improved cooperation of services responsible for combating terrorism and protecting order and peace within the border-free area; an increase in defence spending; strengthening the foreign policy of the EU as a whole as well as better coordinating individual member states’ foreign policies; and last but not least fostering investment, social inclusion, growth, employment, reaping the benefits of technological change and convergence in both the euro area and the whole of Europe.
We should use the change in the trade strategy of the US to the EU’s advantage by intensifying our talks with interested partners, while defending our interests at the same time. The European Union should not abandon its role as a trade superpower which is open to others, while protecting its own citizens and businesses, and remembering that free trade means fair trade. We should also firmly defend the international order based on the rule of law. We cannot surrender to those who want to weaken or invalidate the Transatlantic bond, without which global order and peace cannot survive. We should remind our American friends of their own motto: United we stand, divided we fall. – President Donald Tusk
Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the debate on managing migration along the Central Mediterranean route
The upcoming informal Summit we will have in Malta starting Friday will be for us I believe an opportunity to show that an efficient and at the same time human management of migration is possible – and is a must. If we work together both as Europeans in solidarity and in partnership with our friends, countries of origin and of transit.
We can and we must repeat once again, as we did here just one hour ago, that refugees must be welcome. This is a strong position that the European Union has and will continue to have. And at the same time, without any contradiction, on the contrary and with some complementarity, we can and must say that the pain and the deaths caused by smugglers have to be stopped. I have seen with my own eyes, people that have managed to survive, stories that nobody should not only live, but also even listen to.
And I think it is first and foremost a humanitarian duty not only to save lives, but also to protect the lives of the people that are migrating.
As you know very well, in the last two years we have been working literally day and night to reduce human suffering, first and foremost, to reduce the loss of lives on the different routes leading to Europe. In the Mediterranean Sea, for sure, but also in the places were the loss of lives and the violation of human rights are less evident to the cameras of our TV stations, in particular in the desert. In the Central Mediterranean our Operation Sophia alone saved last year more than 32,000 people, and each and every one of them, for me, is a precious result of a work that finally we are doing as European Union.
We apprehended also more than 100 smugglers that now are in the hands of justice.
Our migration compacts with five African countries have started to substantially reduce the irregular flows: for instance, the number of people crossing irregularly from Niger into Libya has decreased to its lowest level in years. We see that our action is delivering in real terms, it is starting to deliver in real terms. With always this first concern, which is: human lives – saving them and protecting them.
The report adopted yesterday by AFET and DEVE on the role of our external action on addressing refugees’ and migrants’ movements, encourages me to keep on this path of closer cooperation with third countries, including through regular channels for entering into the European Union.
And here, on this specific point, I would ask for your support. Because among the commitments the European Union took with our partners at the Valetta summit last year was also to work more on regular channels for migration. The more we work to prevent irregular flows, the more we have to offer regular channels. And we all know very well that this is a difficult debate in each and every Member State and also in this European Parliament.
It is not by chance that, back in December, the Commission increased the resources for different mobility opportunities. And this is just the beginning.
Still, last year we faced more than 4,500 deaths at sea in the Central Mediterranean. And believe me I wish we could name each and every one of them. Because as long as we refer to numbers, it is much easier to forget them or to consider this as a phenomenon. While each and every of these people have a history, a story, a name and a future – should have a future. Yet, at times, we don’t even have their names.
This is why we need to do more. We all need to do more. In the European Union, in the spirit of solidarity among Europeans, and also with our partners, that also have to take some of the ownership of the management of this problem. When we see people dying in the desert or close to the Libyan coast, we have to discuss and help our partners to do their part to save lives and to make sure that the protection of human beings and their human rights is fully taken on board. I’ll come to that in a minute.
We all need to do more, first to end the suffering and to better manage human mobility. Last week I presented a package of additional measures worth 200 million euros. That will feed into the discussions at the Malta Summit the day after tomorrow.
Of course, migration has always existed. I have been even accused many times for the fact that I am constantly pointing to the fact that first, migration used to be since a couple of decades ago from Europe to the rest of the world. Second, that if we had to live without migrants in all our societies and all our economies, we would suffer a lot of negative consequences. Imagine the cost of non-migration for our European economies and you will realise that we are not talking about a bad phenomenon; we are talking about a phenomenon that needs to be managed. First of all, as I said, to protect human beings.
We all know that there is no easy way to stop the suffering and manage better the phenomenon. We know very well that the real solution implies first of all the economic development of Africa and also the democratic development of Africa. Here, our daily work is going on – with the compacts with the 5 priority countries, with the External Investment Plan, with the Trust Funds and with the overall work we are doing in partnership in particular with Africa. We are also working – and I know Commissioner Mimica will be joining us for the following debates, also in the framework of our cooperation and partnership with the African Union and the different countries in Africa, but also with the civil society and the people in Africa. Because we know well that the key to development is not only economy, it’s also society and a civil space for Africans to find their place and their way.
But, apart from that, we have also now to focus on what kind of quantitative and qualitative leap in our joint work for immediate steps we can take together and with our partners.
So I will name three proposals that will be on the table of the Malta Summit on Friday and that I believe can be first of all fully in line with the approach of partnership we have taken on the central Mediterranean routes and the African partnership from the beginning last year. And be a clear change, a clear step forward in having a more effective result.
First, we want to increase the training of the Libyan coast guard. I am sure many of you remember a meeting we had here in this building a few months ago, with the cast and the director of Fuocammare, the documentary film that now is nominated for an Academy Award.
They told us one simple thing among many others: do something for the Libyan territorial waters, they told us. Because before we were seeing people dying close to Lampedusa, in international waters, now we are seeing people dying in the Libyan territorial waters. And we cannot act inside the Libyan territorial waters – this is a Libyan responsibility. But we can help, we can train and support the Libyan authorities in this work. This will be one of the things I will discuss tomorrow with Prime Minister al Sarraj; not the only one, I will come to that in a minute.
Operation Sophia launched, just a few days ago, the second package of training for a carefully vetted group of officials from the Libyan coast guard and navy. And we now propose to increase the training even more substantially, including – and this is a very important point for me – including on Human Rights and Women’s Rights and the respect of international standards and obligations.
Second, we propose to step up our efforts on the Southern borders of Libya. Before the flows go inside a country that is by definition a difficult country to operate in. We have already started to facilitate a common approach between Libya, Chad and Niger, in particular. Managing their common border is an interest they share – also for security reasons. Because we see us Europeans, our main focus is always here I see a lot of attention in that, maybe not in this hemicycle, but for sure in our public opinions, on the migration flows that go through Libya towards Europe.
But there is also a flow of a different kind that goes from Libya to the south, to the Sahel and possibly connecting with the Lake Chad region and possibly with Boko Haram. So there is a security challenge there also to control the border south of Libya in a more effective way. So managing this border is their common interest, as neighbours, but it is also our interest as Europeans.
We are acting in the region with three missions and operations: we are already training local security forces, including on the respect of human rights. I stress this, because for me this is a key component of all the training we do to local forces.
And these are powerful tools, and we can make them even more powerful, improving cooperation among all actors in the region. And taking a regional approach, including working with the African Union and its newly elected leadership as we have the new African Union Commission President who was the Foreign Minister of Chad.
Third, we will increase our support – at least this is my proposal – to the International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR. For me this is key. Because you can act north at sea, you can act south in the Sahel, but the presence you have already now in Libya is there and will not disappear by itself. And we all know very well the human rights angle of this is extremely serious. So we have to find a way of addressing the dramatic situation of stranded migrants inside Libya in a very challenging security situation.
I have met in recent weeks both Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the General Director of the IOM, William Lacy Swing: together we discussed how the European Union can increase its support to the IOM and the UNHCR, in order for them to work more and better inside Libya. And namely in the places where migrants are.
Cooperation with these two organisations for me is the best possible way to guarantee the protection of human rights for migrants inside the country.
A first project for 20 Million euros was adopted in December under the Trust Fund for Africa: it will allow IOM to offer alternatives to a first group of 5000 stranded migrants, and take action to improve the dramatic conditions in the detention centres.
I believe that this will be really a key element of our policy, where we will need to work in a team: UNHCR, IOM and the European Union together with the Libyan authorities, trying to create the conditions for this to work.
All these actions are designed having in mind the bigger picture. It’s not the issue of today’s debate, but I think it is a must to keep clearly in might that the key element of our work is supporting peace and reconciliation in Libya. Again, as I said, this is not the issue for this debate, but this is my main work. And our work with Libya goes far beyond the issue of managing migration. I know this is the priority for political parties, governments and public opinions in Europe. But believe me when I tell you that the main point for us is working on finding a political solution for the crisis in Libya. This is what I have discussed with Martin Kobler, the UN Special Envoy, just days ago here in Brussels, and again, this will be the main point I will discuss tomorrow with Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj here in Brussels. And again, by the way, this is also what we will be discussing with the Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.
But while we keep working to reach a political solution for Libya, there is much we can do in the meantime. Working with the Libyan coast guard and navy, working with the mayors and the local authorities, working with Libya’s neighbours, not only east and west, but also south, as a Libyan neighbour ourselves, because the European Union is a neighbour to Libya.
And with respect, trying to help and trying to focus on, as I said, a political solution that can bring the country to a stable democracy and uniting the country more than it is now.
We will continue to work in partnership and along the lines we defined together in Valletta last year, in partnership with our friends, not only authorities, but also civil society organisations, and in partnership with the international organisations and the UN-system, with which we are in this. In a week time, we will have in Malta the first stocktaking exercise of the Valletta summit Action Plan. Next week, I will have the pleasure of opening it with the Maltese Foreign Minister, to see with our African partners but also with the partners of the northern part of Africa where we are on the implementation of the Action Plan and what is the way forward in a sense of partnership.
We have finally as Europeans, I believe, started to do our part, we start to see some results. I mentioned the tens of thousands of lives saved, finally, but still, even if it was one person only dying at sea or in the desert, whether we see it or we don’t see it, this is a responsibility and a problem that we are ready to try to solve. But again, it is not only a European responsibility; it is also a responsibility we have to share with our African partners and in this particular case also with our Libyan partners.
Now I hope, I believe Heads of State and Government in Malta on Friday will commit even more strongly to save lives, both at sea and in the desert, to fight the smugglers and to protect the dignity of all human beings. And this also means also being true to our values which links to the previous debate we had in this room.