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Rome, 11 December 2015
Europe is facing an unprecedented migratory crisis and Italy is at the frontline.
But Italy cannot manage this alone.
We have to work all together to develop and implement European solutions.
I therefore wish to thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss the state of implementation of the measures adopted so far to better manage the migratory flows.
The figures speak for themselves: the overall number of arrivals since January 2015 amounts to over 850.000.
As a frontline Member State, Italy knows well what it means to cope with a high inflow of refugees on a daily basis.
The European Commission is fully committed to finding a truly European and comprehensive solution to this challenge.
One that balances responsibility and solidarity.
This is why our efforts in the past months have been focused on delivering practical solutions on the ground and on delivering on the new vision contained in the European Agenda on Migration.
Just to give you some concrete examples:
Following the example of the Italian Operation Mare Nostrum, we tripled Frontex presence at sea, by increasing the resources and assets available for Frontex Joint Operations Poseidon and Triton.
This measure has contributed to saving hundreds of thousands of human lives.
The Commission, together with Italy and Greece, is now working at full speed to implement the hotspot and relocation system.
Two hotspot areas are now operational, (Lampedusa in Italy, and, to some extent, Lesvos in Greece) and 160 persons in need of international protection have already been relocated from Italy (130) and Greece (30) to Finland, Sweden, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain.
This is a first step but you will agree with me that it is not enough.
We have to speed up the roll out of the hotspots both in Italy and in Greece.
We urgently have to increase the number of migrants relocated.
I know that in Italy the issue of hotspots has been much debated in the past.
Let me take the occasion to clarify that hotspots are for us an important contribution to the overall migration management strategy at the European level.
They allow to ensure a swift screening, fingerprinting, and registration.
They also allow to better organize the transfer of migrants arriving irregularly on the European territory.
The hotspots teams are a further security guarantee for our citizens, and an occasion for all European Agencies to provide coordinated support at the external border.
In order to address security concerns, it is essential that migrants registered at the hotspots are systematically checked against national and international databases and in particular the Schengen Information System.
The necessary equipment for carrying out those security checks should be installed without delay.
Ultimately the hotspots are the prototype of a true shared management of migration at the European level.
They represent the basis for the future of shared borders in our Schengen system.
That is why it is so essential that all hotspots are rolled out and made swiftly operational here in Italy.
This is crucial for the success of our overall strategy.
Hotspots are also intrinsically linked to relocation.
This is an advanced solidarity scheme.
But, this is not just a measure of solidarity.
Again this is the start of the reform of the Dublin system, and the improvement of our Common European Asylum System.
We cannot have a shared management of borders, without a shared management of asylum.
This is what this Commission stands for, and this is why we cannot afford to fail on these measures.
The Dublin system has in the last years and months come under great pressure.
Dublin was designed as a mechanism to allocate responsibility, determining which Member State has to examine an asylum application.
But Dublin was not designed as a solidarity instrument for ensuring an equitable responsibility sharing among Member States.
This dimension must be added, as the current uneven distribution is clearly unsustainable.
For the legitimacy and efficacy of the EU's asylum system over the longer term, we need a fairer distribution.
The Commission will therefore make a proposal for further reform of the Dublin Regulation by March 2016.
With regards to asylum issues, it is crucial to fully cooperate with third countries to ensure that migrants find protection in their region of origin.
This includes working together on the Regional Development and Protection Programmes.
I am therefore grateful to Italy for taking the lead on the management of the Regional Development and Protection Programmes for North Africa.
At the same time, we should fully implement the EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling adopted in May 2015 to crack down these networks that take advantage of desperate migrants.
Europol is in the process of setting up a European Migrant Smuggling centre, which will act as a European information and intelligence hub against migrant smuggling networks.
It is crucial that Italian authorities share information and intelligence with Europol to target migrant smugglers.
Of course, we also need to prevent people from taking those dangerous routes by offering them safe ones, and increasing opportunities for resettlement.
Finally, the measures taken in favour of refugees have to go hand in hand with the return of those migrants who are not eligible for international protection, in full respect of their fundamental rights.
As you know, at this point more than a half of those who arrive through Italy are considered to be economic migrants, mainly from West Africa.
Systematic return is crucial to ensure the sustainability and credibility of the EU migration and asylum policy – and popular support for it.
Numerous Frontex joint return operations were carried out in 2015
We must become better at returning irregular migrants.
For instance, we must take measures to ensure that irregular migrants do not abscond before we are able to identify them or to obtain travel documents for their return.
For this, we need sufficient and adequate accommodation facilities – including pre-removal detention centres.
And we need to scale up considerably cooperation with third countries in the return and readmission of their citizens.
The Commission works very closely with the Italian authorities
in their attempt to set up arrangements for the return of irregular migrants from Italy to Sub-Saharan African countries.
We must be ready to bring leverage to convince third countries to cooperate with the EU on readmission – based on the 'more for more principle'.
And we need to enhance the capacities of Frontex in coordinating returns of irregular migrants.
The Commission will propose later this month a Border package setting out measures on improving the management of our external borders.
We will propose to strengthen the mandate of the Frontex Agency, to establish a European Border and Coast Guard, and to develop a European integrated border management.
These challenges don't stop at our national borders, so we need shared responsibility when it comes to the security of the EU's external borders.
To this end, the Agency must have sufficient resources to make it possible to perform more efficiently crisis prevention tasks and to take the immediate operational measures when a crisis needs to be addressed.
The Agency's mandate as regards return of irregular migrants will also be strengthened significantly.
As you can see, the European Agenda on Migration is a balanced package with interrelated actions that need to be implemented together.
All actors: Member States, EU institutions, International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third countries, need to work together to make a common European policy on migration a reality.
Let me once again thank you for the opportunity to discuss the latest developments of the migration crisis.
You are a key partner, and part of the solution.