Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
First of all, I would like thank the Maltese authorities, and in particular my good friend, Minister Carmeno Abela, for the warm hospitality during my first official visit to Malta as EU Commissioner.
I had very fruitful discussions with Prime Minister Muscat and Ministers Abela and Vella on Malta's migration challenges and the situation in the neighbouring region, especially Libya.
We all know that the current situation in the Mediterranean is particularly worrying. We are confronted with an unprecedented increase of people embarking on dangerous journeys to escape wars, seeking international protection or simply looking for a better life.
Managing migration is not the task of only one Member State or only the European Commission. We are in this together. It is a joint responsibility.
I am fully aware of the particular pressures facing Malta's immigration system - and how the substantial influx of migrants into a small island-state like Malta can be a huge challenge.
Needless to say, the Commission will continue to support Malta and other Member States which are facing high migratory pressures.
For example, yesterday, the Commission approved the Maltese Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund programme, worth €17.7 million euros.
Also, the fact that Frontex assets are involved in many search and rescue operations is another concrete example of European solidarity – and it's making a difference.
In fact, between November 2014 and February this year, more than 19.000 people have been saved, 6.000 of which directly owing to the help and involvement of Frontex's Operation Triton.
We also launched an initiative aimed at better countering migrant smuggling: Joint Operational Team (JOT) MARE or "JOT MARE" and I am pleased that thirteen Member States – including Malta - are participating directly in JOT MARE.
And of course the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which is hosted here in Malta, plays a central role in our efforts to strengthen our Common European Asylum Policy.
Cooperation with partner countries in the region is of key importance to tackle trafficking routes, but also to provide protection in conflict regions and facilitate resettlement.
This is necessary given the current situation in Libya, which bears migratory and security consequences for North Africa and the EU. In this respect, I would encourage Malta to become more engaged in the EU cooperation projects with third countries.
In May, the European Commission is coming forward with a European Agenda on Migration. Our aim is to promote a new holistic approach to migration, looking at the full migratory process from the countries of origin all the way to Europe, in order to manage migration better and prevent hazardous and deadly journeys.
One of the Commission's other major tasks for this year is the development of a new European Agenda on Security.
With the current levels of terrorist threats it is evident that cooperation among the EU Member States and with our neighbours needs to be strengthened.
So to conclude: we need to focus on our common priorities in order to tackle our common challenges. If we work together at European, national, and local levels, we can achieve real solidarity and a better sharing of responsibility.