Let me thank Spain for the initiative to hold this second Ministerial Meeting of the group of Med5 in Malaga.
We had the opportunity, together with the friends, Ministers of Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Malta, with whom we are in regular contacts and cooperation, to discuss various issues related to migration management in Europe and to further coordinate our positions regarding the crucial negotiation of the European Pact on Migration and Asylum, one year after the presentation of the Commission’s proposal.
As reaffirmed in our Joint Statement, our key priority is to tackle illegal migration and fight the smugglers networks. Challenges to which we are considerably faced as front line member States of the EU and that overburden our migration and asylum systems -not only those of our five countries but of the EU as a whole.
In this regard, we have set a series of main objectives on which we are focusing our actions:
1. Preventing illegal arrivals through the support to, and the cooperation with origin and transit countries. Turkey is of course an important actor that needs our help but at the same time has to deliver on its own commitments towards the EU, including under the 2016 EU-Turkey Joint Statement.
2. Continuing the active and effective protection of the external borders of the EU, in full respect of international and EU law.
3. Reinforcing returns of illegal migrants and those not entitled of international protection, through a centralized European mechanism, and
4. Finally, achieving a fair and sustainable common European policy, resistant to any efforts of abuse of the asylum acquis and ensuring the necessary solidarity and participation of all MS in cases of migration pressure. Without of course leaving the MS at the external borders, like our five countries, overexposed to disproportionate burden and responsibilities.
Having said that, we believe that the Pact is not a precondition for action, since we can deliver better results on the three aspects of (a) external dimension, (b) border protection and (c) returns, already under the existing legal framework.
The recent events at the Lithuanian borders and the crisis in Afghanistan have underlined the need for timely and concerted action on behalf of the EU for preventing mass illegal flows and a migratory crisis similar to that of 2015.
It was also made clear that Europe must engage in innovative policies for building resilience against the instrumentalisation of migration by third parties as well as the human trafficking.
We, the Ministers of the five Mediterranean front line countries, are determined to continue our joint effort for achieving a balanced and effective migration policy and to promote with unity and resolve our positions, concerns and priorities.
The recent agreement on adopting at EU level the Regulation on the new European Asylum Agency, achieved thanks to the constructive attitude of our countries, has shown that we are ready to be flexible, when needed, in a spirit of compromise. We expect our European partners to demonstrate their readiness to reciprocate.
Dear Fernando, I would like to express our gratitude for the warm hospitality in Malaga, in this marvellous location and for offering us the opportunity for holding two days of intensive and thorough talks, exchanges and interaction.