Dear Colleagues,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Many thanks for inviting me to address this closing session of what, I trust, has been a stimulating day of debate and discussion.

In this era where many consider truth and studies as being of secondary importance, this academic network stands for everything that we should be proud of in Europe – a gathering of the best academic minds and experts, coming together in a spirit of solidarity, to find common solutions to the challenges we face.

Indeed, Odysseus himself was both a clever and a complex character. The hero of Homer's epic poem 'the Odyssey' – a tale of wandering, homecoming and hospitality.

For me Odysseus symbolizes two important aspects of the migration debate. Firstly the complexity of the issue and the many factors which compel a person to set out on often epic journeys of their own.

And secondly, the historical nature of this phenomenon, which stretches back beyond the time of Odysseus to the very beginning of time. 

Migration is one of humanity's oldest and most profound characteristics. It is one of the most basic human instincts – to go in search of new opportunities and new horizons.

To think therefore that we can stop this age-old phenomenon, or deny others the opportunities that we ourselves have pursued - is to think that we can stop the world from turning, or to stop time from ticking.

What we can do, rather, is to diminish dangerous and irregular movements, to support partner countries to better manage migration themselves, and wherever possible to create opportunities for legal and orderly migration.

I know much of your discussions today have focused on how the European Union's internal migration and asylum tools and policies are equipped to respond in today's context.

So forgive me if I focus my intervention largely on the external aspects of migration, which fall within my responsibility, specifically the so-called development-migration nexus.

The inclusion of migrants and refugees across the global 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, was an important recognition of the key links which exist between migration and development, and the positive role that migration can have on development.

For the European Union, this is not something new. We have been addressing migration and refugee challenges – and opportunities - through our development cooperation for many years. 

By using Official Development Assistance to increase long term opportunities for people in their home countries, we can help to fight poverty and provide hope.

By linking these efforts with other actions – political initiatives,

conflict resolution, trade and private sector investment for example – we can help to reduce the pressure to migrate due to insecurity and a lack of opportunity.

At the same time, we can also help our partner countries to harness the benefits of migration for development.

This is precisely what we are aiming to do in our proposals for a new European Consensus on Development, which we are currently discussing in the Parliament and Council.

It is about recognising all of the areas that intersect with development – including migration, but also our climate, trade, humanitarian, and security policies.

It is also what we want to achieve through our proposals for a new European External Investment Plan, which could inject – thanks to innovative ways of using development funds - an additional 44 billion euro of investment to create jobs and opportunities in Africa where it is needed the most.

This does not mean that through development we can - or event want - to somehow put an end to peoples' desire to migrate. In fact, as you well know, just the opposite is likely to happen.

What we hope to achieve is that migration is not the only available option for a better future. And, if it does happen, it will be in a better prepared and a more regular manner. In this way, it should become a development enabler rather than a problem to deal with. 

Ultimately, migration should only arise out of aspiration and not out of desperation.

We owe it to those people who are out there right now – faced with the almost impossible choice between a perilous journey and an unknown fate, or the certainty of poverty and hardship at home.

This is why we substantially strengthened our approach with the adoption of the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015.

The European Union has redoubled its development efforts to improve migration and refugee management in our partner countries, to provide assistance and protection to migrants and refugees in need and not least to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement.

Just last week in Malta, Heads of State reconfirmed their commitment to take 'a pragmatic, flexible and tailor-made approach' to the current situation, whilst pursuing a 'sustainable and comprehensive' long-term migration policy.

The Valletta Summit on migration with our African partner countries, which took place in November 2015, is one example of this deepened engagement.

The resulting Joint Valletta Action Plan is a holistic and balanced overall policy framework, to both respond to the short-term pressures, and to capitalise on the long-term benefits of mobility and migration.

Only yesterday senior officials from the participating countries met in Malta and confirmed the progress made in the implementation of the Action Plan.

They also identified areas where more work can be done, including: jobs and training, especially for women and youth, enhancing mobility and legal migration,  fighting  human trafficking and  smuggling,  improving border  management  and  cross-border  cooperation, and cooperating on return and reintegration.

Another concrete example, linked to and arising directly from the Valletta Summit, is the European Emergency Trust Fund addressing the root causes of instability and irregular migration in Africa.

In record time we have approved over 100 programmes across the three regions covered by the Trust Fund, mobilising approximately 1.6 billion euro.

This week we extended its geographical scope by adding Ghana, Guinea and the Cote d'Ivoire as eligible countries.

By pooling together funding from different sources and different actors, we can provide more tailor-made, flexible and rapid responses than was previously possible.

I know that there are concerns that by focusing on migration we are somehow 'diverting' essential funding from our primary purpose of eradicating poverty.

But as I have explained earlier these two issues are very closely linked, and we do not pursue one at the expense of the other.

It is true that currently many donors are using increasing proportions of their Official Development Assistance to address migration, including spending on refugees inside Europe.

But it is also true that the European Union's and Member States' ODA spending has reached its highest-ever level in recent years, as a result of both the surge in refugee costs in host countries and an increase in 'traditional' development spending.

There are nevertheless some questions over the way migration support is reported and classified at the OECD level.

Therefore, the European Union will propose within the OECD Development Assistance Committee a new purpose code on migration, which will enable us all to better report on migration spending against our global commitments, including in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Let me also touch briefly on another concern, that there is some form of negative conditionality between our development assistance and our cooperation with developing countries on migration.

This is simply not productive and we know that it would not work. And it is contrary to the very nature and principles of untied development aid. What is much more important and effective is establishing real partnerships based on mutual responsibilities.

For example, we have recently decided to take a more selective approach under the Trust Fund for Africa to ensure incentives and complementarity. In other words, doing more with those countries committed to addressing common migration challenges. Partnership works better than threats.

I know that you still have one last important discussion to hold, so I do not want to overstay your hospitality much longer.

In this final session you are asking the question of whether there is a long-term consensus on our approach to migration.

From where I stand and, I hope, from the comments I have made here today, let me conclude that yes, I do believe that there is a common understanding, a common approach, and a common commitment to how we address migration in our external relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me assure you that, by pooling together our resources and expertise, the European Union is committed to making sure that development works for migration and that migration works for development.

As Homer himself wrote in the Odyssey: "it is equally wrong to speed a guest who does not want to go, and to keep one back who is eager to go. You ought to make welcome the present guest, and send forth the one who wishes to go."

Thank you for your attention.

(Check against delivery)