Foreign Minister focuses on EU’s future, migration and Libya

European Union – Migration/Libya – Statements by M. Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, at his joint press briefing with his Italian counterpart, Mr Paolo Gentiloni, and his German counterpart, Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Rome, 12 October 2016

Thank you, Paolo, for your invitation. I’m very happy to return here, to the magnificent Villa Madama, and to be in Rome. As convinced Europeans, Rome is a source of inspiration to us. It’s true that, 60 years after the Treaty of Rome was signed, Europe is facing new challenges. But our three countries are determined to tackle them. Moreover, it was in Italy, in August, that our three countries met at the Ventotene summit and began making a whole series of proposals. We want to build on this work together and give Europeans, Europe’s most sceptical, most disillusioned people, a message of hope and confidence. Even though one country has decided through its vote to leave the European Union, that’s all the more reason for the others, for the 27, to respond practically, pragmatically, realistically, but also coherently and ambitiously to the challenges of the future, remembering that our countries, each of our nations, with their peculiarities, their specific characteristics, are stronger together when it comes to addressing the challenges of our times and the aspiration of our fellow citizens. (…)

We discussed the migration issue. We discussed the issue of migrants, particularly in relation to the situation of Italy, which is currently in the front line. We recalled the commitments made at the Valletta summit to help African countries and go on cooperating with them. Admittedly, we must speed up and gain ground on this, and Paolo Gentiloni spoke about the ambitious, concrete proposals we decided to made together.

Then there’s the issue of Libya. For us, Libya is a key country. It’s absolutely essential for the commitments made to be implemented – that is, to recognize Mr Sarraj as Prime Minister but also ensure that all Libya’s forces and Libya in all its diversity come together. That’s our goal, because we have no interest in chaos taking hold in Libya. On the contrary, we must continue our efforts to encourage Libya’s various forces to come together, encourage Libya’s various forces to deal with Libyans’ problems. And, as far as we’re concerned, do everything, of course, to continue our action in the central Mediterranean, in the European framework, i.e. EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, which also aims to curb human trafficking, drug trafficking and arms trafficking. Libyans’ security and the neighbouring countries’ security depend on it. And our own security also depends on it.

We discussed the need to strengthen the European Union. It’s about borders but also about defence policy. We know this is now a priority. The Bratislava meeting of heads of state and government was a reminder of it. We must now do practical work on implementation. Proposals are on the table. We discussed our goals. We can see a lot of agreement, but today Europe must face up to new threats, and alongside NATO, Europe must be more organized on defence, and in a practical way.

More generally, Europe must respond to our fellow citizens’ expectations, namely protection, domestic security, border protection, defence policy and also the protection of workers in Europe – for example, the issue of the posting of workers – but also the protection of our interests at the international trade level, while maintaining an open Europe that invests and prepares for the future. If we implement those priorities, then it’s our strong belief that we’ll make Europe more transparent, simpler, more accessible, and we’ll regain our fellow citizens’ trust. In any case, we – the French, Italians and Germans – are convinced it’s our responsibility to work on this./.

Published on 12/10/2017

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