On 25 November 2015, Nicolas Schmit, the Minister responsible for relations with the European Parliament during the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU Council, addressed MEPs meeting in plenary session in Strasbourg in order to present the results of the Valletta Summit held on 11 and 12 November 2015 and the G20 Summit on 15 and 16 November 2015.
The Valletta Summit on Migration
Nicolas Schmit welcomed the high participation level of both European and African countries at this summit on migration which 'demonstrates the political importance that everyone, in Europe and in Africa, attaches to this challenge'. The Valletta Summit (Malta) was focused on fostering cooperation and discussing the challenges migration represents. The objective was to drive home the idea that the migrations are the shared responsibility of source, transit and destination countries.
According to Nicolas Schmit, the summit enabled 'the European Union to lend concrete expression to its commitments', such as bolstering political cooperation with African partners at all levels so as to tackle the profound causes of illegal migration and fight migrant and human trafficking. Commitments transposed, according to Nicolas Schmit, by the two documents adopted, whose character is 'essentially pragmatic and operational'. 'These actions aim to encourage sustainable economic, social and environmental development', stressed the Minister.
For the Minister, the content of the Action Plan is 'perfectly in line with the conclusions of the European Council and of the Council on the importance of the return and readmission of illegal migrants', which had been emphasised in several texts adopted by heads of State and Government.
According to Nicolas Schmit, for the first time there is a clear and collective commitment in the Euro-African dialogue on migrations to implement specific steps in a bid to facilitate the return and sustainable reintegration of illegal migrants. Such an cooperation 'can only serve to reinforce the European migration and mobility policy, making it more efficient and complete', said the Minister.
Lastly, Nicolas Schmit called for the EU's financial commitment by using all the financial instruments available as well as the new European Union Contingency Funds. Moreover, the pre-existing dialogue structures (the Rabat and Khartoum processes and the EU-Africa dialogue on migration and mobility) will be used to monitor the operational aspects of the Plan of Action, he said.
Federica Mogherini calls for legal and effective mobility
Federica Mogherini, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in turn called upon the EU to act in a rational manner and to create 'a human mobility mechanism adapted to the 21st century', which would enable 'legal and effective mobility' and respond to the challenges of illegal migration and human suffering and exploitation, including return and readmission agreements. She insisted on a strengthening of legal channels of entry in order to avoid turning the Mediterranean and the Sahara into a mass grave.
Preparations for the Valletta Summit were tense, but the summit itself and the monitoring of the implementation of the results have been 'extremely fruitful and positive'. For the High Representative, it was not about 'offering money to African states in return for readmission agreements'. There is no question of 'using development aid as exchange currency in the negotiations', she insisted, for that would run against European values and interests and simply wouldn't work. The approach that has been suggested to African states is to create instruments and to make financial resources available to manage a complex phenomenon concerning European and African states, Federica Mogherini pointed out.
Esteban González Pons, Vice-President of the EPP Group (European Peoples Party Group), spoke of an 'important agreement' reached in Valletta on the subject of fiduciary funds for Africa. He also appealed for efforts to avoid confusing immigration with terrorism and to strengthen the EU's external borders. He concluded by calling for a 'genuine common immigration and asylum policy' to be set up.
Gianni Pittella, President of the S&D (Socialists and Democrats) Group stated that his group was only 'partly satisfied' with the results of the summit. He spoke of a 'tacit exchange between African and European governments' and appealed to those responsible not to approach things in a utilitarian way.
Timothy Kirkhope (ECR - European Conservatives and Reformist Group), spoke of an 'important summit' which had been the 'starting point from which to move towards more ambitious agreements in the future'. He insisted on the need to conclude readmission agreements, without which asylum systems would not work. He underlined the importance of developing African countries, as this will 'create more possibilities for young people'.
Guy Verhofstadt, President of ALDE (Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group), expressed 'mixed feelings' about the Valletta Summit. He criticised Europe for wanting to 'outsource' its problems, pointing out that there are between 12 and 15 million refugees in African states who are doing 'a better job than we are'. He called on the EU to keep to its promises and honour its financial commitments, reckoning that it was 'the champion' when it comes to making promises, but the last when it comes to putting the money on the table. On the subject of the refugees relocation mechanism, which has barely been put to the test, he called on the Luxembourg Presidency to raise this issue at the Council.
Kostas Chrysogonos (EUL/NGL - European United Left/Nordic Green Left), spoke of 'grand statements' and 'bold words' during a 'summit without concrete commitments'. For him, the only result came out of the informal summit which followed and focused on the aid to be allocated to Turkey to accommodate the refugees. He called for 'opposition to Erdogan's semi-authoritarian regime' and stated that, if the Islamic State wasn't beaten, the situation would never return to normal in Syria.
Judith Sargentini of the Green/EFA (European Free Alliance) slammed the 'selfish' behaviour of EU Member-States whose only goal was to invest in development aid to protect itself. She confessed to having 'many concerns' and said that she wanted 'genuine investment in Africa' to 'give people the possibility of living in their own homes'.
Following the debate, the Commissioner in charge of Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Development, Christos Stylianides, spoke on behalf of the High Representative. He also called for 'investment in the future of Africa', since it is a 'continent with enormous potential'. 'Supporting growth and development in Africa was in our own interests. If we disregard the future of Africa, we will harm our own future', he said. He pointed out that the priority was saving lives and that this was one of the key aspects of the EU-Africa partnership. According to him, this new partnership isn't just about managing mobility, the causes into migration also had to be looked into, he said.
Summing up, Nicolas Schmit believed that the Valletta Summit helped to re-launch a process towards a new partnership with Africa, which is a 'natural partner' of the EU, remarking that 'migration and development are two sides of the same coin'. According to him, migratory flows cannot be managed more effectively without involving the countries of origin, and without including legal migration. He called for the launch of 'real' projects that will improve the prospects of the populations in 'intense regions' in order to encourage people to stay there. He reminded those present that Africa itself has lots of refugees and that it must be supported in managing this problem.
The results of the G20 meeting in Antalya
The results of the G20 meeting held in Antalya (Turkey) on 15 and 16 November 2015 were also addressed by Nicolas Schmit. The Minister noted that the results were 'positive for Europeans' and that there was common ground on a 'number of points between the G20 and the EU with regard to evaluating the current situation and the priorities identified'.
The meeting, dominated by the Paris attacks, saw the signing of a declaration on this subject from leaders. In their declaration, leaders condemned the cowardly attacks committed by the terrorists in Paris and Ankara and pointed out that terrorism cannot be, and must not be, linked to a religion, nationality, civilisation or ethnic origin, stressed Nicolas Schmit.
The G20 participants were also interested in combating the financing of terrorism and stressed the importance of a global approach based on the willingness to tackle factors that encouraged terrorism, the Minister further stated.
Regarding economic dossiers, discussions focused on the priority goal of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth. Within this context, the participants reaffirmed their determination, expressed in Brisbane (Australia) in 2014, to increase the total GDP of the G20 countries by an additional 2% between now and 2018, Nicolas Schmit indicated.
Investment, and especially the strategies for each country for this year, as well as the participation of the private sector, the SMEs and financial intermediation were also on the agenda. Against this background, Minister Schmit also welcomed the fact that the Antalya plan of action involves a direct reference to the investment plan for Europe.
International taxation was also on the meeting's agenda, stated Nicolas Schmit, adding that the leaders had endorsed the package of measures regarding the erosion of the tax base and the transfer of profits (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting - BEPS) and recognised that a broad and consistent implementation would be essential for ensuring that this project was effective, particularly regarding information exchange on advance tax rulings on cross-border matters.