Minister Bek,

Honourable Members of this House

Together with Vice President Schinas I’ve been listening to this long and intense debate.

And of course there's been a lot of emotions.

And that's very understandable because we see men, women children in very dangerous situations, also losing their lives in the Mediterranean, or in a sealed lorry along the Western Balkan routes. It is understandable that we are emotional because saving lives is always our first responsibility.

There's also been a lot of focus on the problems and challenges that we have. I'm dealing with this on a daily basis. We have huge challenges. We have seen an increase of irregular arrivals along both the Western Balkan routes and the Central Med route.

And we have seen also that this increase is not caused by more people that are fleeing persecution or are in need of international protection.

We see an increase of nationalities that are probably not in need of international protection.

We've seen an increase along the Western Balkan routes of Pakistanis, Cubans, Indians, Turks.

We've seen an increase on the West Med route of Bangladeshis Tunisians, Egyptians.

Of course, this needs to be addressed. That's why I was in Bangladesh and  Pakistan last week, to discuss with them the swift return of those not eligible to stay, but also legal pathways and help for the returnees.

That's why we launched a new anti smuggling partnership with all the Western Balkan partners.

That's why we presented last Monday a 20 points action plan

That's why we will have an extraordinary Council on Friday to discuss this.

So challenges are huge. And of course irregular arrivals have to be addressed.

This is not a proper way to come to European Union.

But I would like to use this opportunity to talk about some other issues actually,

Some of you, many of you have been calling for a European solution on asylum and migration.

We are so strong when we work together. When we are united and tackle challenges together we can do a lot.

Let me just remind you that we managed the situation, where Lukashenko tried to sell tickets, instrumentalizing migrants into the European Union. We managed that together and together with third countries.

We have managed to decrease the irregular arrivals through the western Mediterranean routes and Atlantic routes, thanks to good cooperation also with our African partners.

We manage last year to give humanitarian admission to 35,000 Afghans fleeing the situation in Afghanistan.

We are managing right now a situation with more than 4 million Ukrainian refugees,  activating the Temporary Protection Directive.

We can do so much more when we work together.

And I heard somebody call: it's time to stop debating and start working.

And the good news is that work is ongoing. Negotiations on the new Pact on Migration and Asylum that we presented two years ago, are really taking big steps forward.

There is a very good momentum in the Council thanks to the Czech presidency but also thanks to the previous French presidency. Are working intensively together with Member States and are reaching new steps almost one we are speaking.

Also here in Parliament progress has been made on all the files and Parliament and Council have agreed on a roadmap.

And I think this is a unique situation. There is a real good opportunity that we can make the decision on the whole Pact on Migration and Asylum during this mandate.

But time is running. So we have to start the real negotiations and trilogues now to be able to finalise all the files during this mandate.

To show everybody that migration is not a threat. Migration is something that we need, but we need to manage migration and we need to welcome people in legal ways, but we need to prevent irregular arrivals and the risk of people's lives.

Thank you.