I am happy to see so many of us here in Valletta today to discuss migration between our continents.
I would like to thank Prime Minister Muscat once again for kindly hosting us here in Valletta. I would also like to thank our senior officials for their hard work (until the early hours of this morning) in the preparation of a successful Summit.
As you know this meeting was suggested after the tragedy on 19 April, when hundreds of people lost their lives in the Mediterranean sea. This called on us to increase our efforts to try to stop such things from happening. The European Union took on the heavy responsibility of trying to save as many lives as possible. But this is dealing only with the symptoms.
The only way we can manage migration is by working together. Our purpose today is to agree a joint approach and concrete steps so that migration becomes fruitful exchange between our peoples, and not a tragic loss to all. We have a joint responsibility, and we must deliver on it in partnership and solidarity. That is why we are here.
Migration creates both challenges and opportunities and it affects us all – countries of origin, transit and destination. The number of people on the move globally has never been so big. Both Africa and Europe are put under heavy pressure trying to manage the scale and its effects on local communities.
Firstly, one of our biggest responsibilities is to address the root causes of the movements we are seeing. It is our job, as leaders, to ensure that people do not feel the need to risk their lives to achieve their aspirations. Security and opportunity are things that Europe and Africa already work on together. And we will continue to do so.
This means making our extensive development assistance more efficient, more targeted; creating more opportunities for young people to work. It also means stepping up our efforts to prevent and stop conflicts, and to help countries build systems of government that are accountable and open, that reinforce the rule of law, that respect human rights.
Secondly, people’s aspirations and needs have to be met first and foremost at home. Legal migration can offer opportunities for some, but not for all. Routes for legal migration to Europe should remain open; mobility between our continents is a driver for growth on both sides.
Thirdly, and this is a crucial area for urgent action, we must do more to prevent the trafficking of human beings and the illegal smuggling of migrants by criminal gangs whose only motive is their own profit.
Fourthly, the EU and African countries have a history of protecting those entitled to international protection. We are ready to step up our support to you to help you deal with the displaced persons within Africa. At the same time, we will continue to offer international protection to those entitled to it.
Last, but definitely not least, proper return and readmission of those not entitled to international protection is essential. This is an international norm, and a responsibility of states to citizens. To keep the doors open for refugees and legal migrants, irregular migrants should be returned effectively and quickly. Voluntary return is always preferable. But when it is not possible, non-voluntary return is a pre-requisite for a well-managed migration policy. And once returned, we must all work together to reintegrate these people and provide them with the means to meet their aspirations.
Europe is taking its responsibility – saving lives, welcoming refugees and those entitled to international protection, offering more organised routes for legal migration, and dismantling criminal organisations.
We need our African partners to help us better address our common challenges. We have no choice but to be partners in this.
One of the strengths of our partnership is that we can have open and honest conversations about even difficult subjects. We have these within the EU all the time. Migration is a sensitive political topic within and amongst the EU Member States, as I am sure it is among African states too. But we have to discuss it to find the right way forward for all of us.
I look forward to our open and honest discussions. And more than that, I hope we will take the necessary action to forge our future cooperation. We have to turn our principles into action. Thank you.