[check against delivery]

Strasbourg, 12/12/2017

Video: https://youtu.be/6cDCyrCd5QA

Opening Remarks

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you very much for the invitation to discuss this very sensitive issue here tonight. I am more than happy to be here and complement the words of my good colleague, Ms Federica Mogherini.

This is the situation, as she described it. But, I think on the ground is even worse. And the images we saw on CNN recently do not reflect the reality. So, we are conscious of what is happening there.

But let me start by making this crystal clear: it is not the EU action that has created an inhumane system in Libya. For far too long, these unacceptable, appalling conditions have existed there.

So, quite on the opposite, it is the EU that, together with its international partners, is coordinating the efforts to address and improve the situation on the ground.

Our collective efforts cannot ensure from one day to another a result which equals our expectations. But with our joint and international cooperation, we hope to achieve results in the short to medium term.

We are working in a difficult context – as you are all aware of. An inclusive political transition, along with the stabilisation and economic consolidation of Libya, remains a key prerequisite for addressing migration–related challenges in Libya in a sustainable way.

Within this complex framework, we are managing to work in Libya on all possible fronts.

Cooperating with third-countries, especially in North Africa, is a cornerstone of the comprehensive migration policy that we proposed to step up in our contribution to the leader's meeting this Thursday evening on the way forward in migration.

Jointly with the IOM, the UNHCR and other humanitarian organisations, we are focusing:

1. To improve the conditions of the migrants stranded in the country,

2. To support their voluntary return and reintegration back home.

3. To create legal pathways to Europe for people in need for international protection.

I am not going to repeat what Ms Mogherini already said about the registration and the humanitarian assistance on the ground as a well as for the voluntary return and reintegration of migrants to their own countries.

I will focus on the legal pathways, which should become the preferred way for people in need on protection to reach safety in Europe.

In mid-November, the first group of 25 of the most vulnerable persons needing protection were evacuated from Libya to Niger, for their further resettlement to France – thanks to the support of the UNHCR, to the EU funding and the consent of the governments of both Libya and Niger.

With the EU support, more evacuations from Libya to Niger will be carried out by UNHCR in the next weeks to come: as announced in our roadmap presented last week, our target is to reach 1000 by the end of February.

The continuous evacuation of people trapped in Libya depends on several factors.

It is of course linked to the capacity of our Member States, together with other destination countries to rapidly resettle from Niger the asylum seekers evacuated.

As you know, in September, the Commission called on the Member States to make available at least 50,000 resettlement places in the next two years for asylum seekers located in some priority countries.

This of course includes the countries of the Central Mediterranean route.

Member States replied in a very encouraging manner, offering until now almost 40,000 new resettlement pledges, and we are confident that additional pledges, from Member States who have not yet replied to our call, will be offered.

But meanwhile has already arrived the moment to start fulfilling these pledges, and I count on the support of the European Parliament in reminding the urgency.

I also count on your support for the target we proposed to the leaders that 25000 resettlements take place before October 2018.

In parallel, we continue to help the Sahel countries to better manage their borders and reinforce their capacities in relation to the fight against migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings.

I understand that there are still concerns for the efficiency of our collective action on the ground, as the Amnesty International reported today.

Instead, I would call for more ad stronger joint cooperation of all actors and partners, since we all aim the same objectives: stability in the region, unity in Libya, solidarity and practical support of the people in need.

I am looking forward to exchanging views with you. 

Thank you for your attention.

 

Closing Remarks

I was listening very carefully to all the colleagues and I would like to express my thanks for their contribution to this debate.

What I would like to say in the beginning is that finally we are all on the same side. We share the same concerns. And we try to find solutions. Some of these solutions are not common. But I think we have reached a level where we all understand that more action has to be undertaken, more responsibility to be shown and more initiatives to be undertaken, in order to, first of all, bring back stability in Libya.

We are still in an early stage, but yes, I agree with you that we have to work in a balanced way with our partners, also to face the reality: Europe is in need of economic migrants. But, for this purpose we need to enhance, to open legal pathways and channels, but in parallel reducing also the irregular migration.

As long as irregular migration is there, pictures like the ones we saw some days ago will be replicated.

As you know, Member States keep their eye to determine the volume of admission of third country nationals coming to work in their countries. It's their national competence and responsibility.

As far as we, the Commission, are concerned, we stand ready to coordinate and propose pilot projects with selected third countries and of course provide related financial support. This will be cases where member states would engage themselves in hosting certain numbers of migrants coming through legal channels, in particular for economic purposes. We are discussing with Member States. The Commission's goal is the implementation of a comprehensive migration policy.

The same stands for the particular case of Libya. We need a global solution to address all problems and challenges.

Dear colleagues,

It is clear that we are all equally aware and shocked of the terrible, appalling and inhumane conditions in Libya. Yes, this has to stop now.

The situation in the detention centres is unacceptable. The EU is pursuing efforts to support the establishment of a standardised process by the Libyan authorities through concrete projects.

The question you would ask me is who are these "Libyan Authorities"? The legitimate government of Tripoli is there, recognised by the UN and the EU. But does this government have the power? Does this government have full control of the situation in Libya?

The answer is clear: No.

Migrants rescued by the Libyan coastguard are disembarked and taken to reception centres that don't meet international humanitarian standards. And once again: we have to praise and commend IOM and UNHCR for the work they do on the ground, putting even the lives of their people there in danger.

The EU is actively supporting the development in Libya of alternatives to detention.

Recently, the Libyan government, agreed to allow UNHCR to open a transit and departure facility to Tripoli for people in need of international protection. IOM is also working with partner NGOs on pilot projects to promote safe spaces, which would have the capacity to host a small group of vulnerable women and children.

As regars the use of funds, we are monitoring in every case how they are used. So far, we are not aware of misuses, but we are ready to listen to concrete evidence.

Dear colleagues,

Fanciful statements about complicity and blame might grab headlines but they are not helping anyone, not least the migrants themselves.

The situation in Libya is not bad because of the European Union. This discourse has to stop.

On the contrary, the situation is slightly better compared to the recent past thanks to the European Union and we shall continue working on the ground, in order to support these people.

You describe the situation in Libya before, I will pick some of your words: because, finally, Libya is lacking all elements to be qualified as a state. The situation is chaotic. There is no strong interlocutor from the other side. The country is divided. 20 approximately independent militia operate uncontrolled on the ground. The country is the paradise of smugglers and an open corridor for irregular migration.

We all here share the same objective as Amnesty: first and most important is to save lives and provide these desperate people with support.

The European Union, its institutions and its Member States are working to achieve it, pure and simple.

We do so by

1) stopping people drowning in the Mediterranean, and you see that the numbers have gone down drastically

2) evacuating them from disastrous conditions in Libya and

3) offering them safe and legal pathways to come to Europe.

I will not repeat what I said in the beginning.

But it is clear that we have a lot more work to be getting on with to make it better still.

I count also on the Members of this House to help us advance. Because what we have achieved in general on migration, from the very beginning of our term as European Parliament, as Commission, has been achieved thanks to our cooperation. And, once again, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for your support. Because today the European Union can be proud for its policy and for the adoption of the principles upon which this policy and this strategy are based.

The MEPs who were herein the previous parliament know very well that there was no holistic migration policy before. So we have all shared this effort to achieve what we have done.

Yes, we have to do more, but we will do it together. This is not a national, regional or European problem. As I said before, it is a global one. And I was more than happy, one year ago, when I proposed to the former Secretary General of the United Nations to call this extraordinary General Assembly and he did it in New York. And in this way, we made this issue a global one.

So, it has become a global responsibility and we are all responsible globally for what is happening in the Mediterranean and in Libya.

The EU has taken its part. All others should do the same.

So, before I sign off, I would like to call for more and strong, joint cooperation of all of us, all actors and partners, as we share, as I said before, the same objective. To bring back stability in the region, to bring back stability in Libya, to be the ones who contribute to bringing unity in Libya, because the country is divided and fragmented, to work on the principle of solidarity towards these desperate people, but also among us, and, finally, produce practical results by offering practical support to the people in need.

Thank you very much for your attention.