Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you today, to discuss the cooperation and partnership between Europe and Africa in the field of migration.
We clearly have shared concerns and priorities: to protect and save lives, to safeguard human dignity and to promote well managed and organised mobility between our continents.
All too often migration is reduced to numbers. But refugees and migrants are not numbers.
They are human beings, with hopes, aspirations, with families, friends and communities.
It is true that the events of the past few years have taken us all by surprise. It is true that we were not prepared.
But new events call for new approaches. Old methods rarely work in changing circumstances.
This is precisely why the European Union and its Member States started to look for a new way forward in addressing the migration challenges.
Our collective work delivered concrete results: Not only did we manage to bring down the number of people arriving dangerously and irregularly, but we also managed to give concrete assistance to many people on the move.
Within Europe, hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, were granted international protection. In the Mediterranean, almost 730 000 lives were saved. Outside of Europe, millions of migrants, refugees and internally displaced people, benefited from the EU financial support.
In particular, in Libya, under very dire conditions, the EU, working together with the IOM, the UNHCR and the African Union Commission, provided humanitarian assistance to over 100,000 vulnerable migrants, and ensured the voluntary return home, or the evacuation to third safe countries, for almost 40 000 of them.
More broadly, in Africa, thanks to the EU Trust Fund and EU Humanitarian Aid, over 5.3 million vulnerable people had access to basic assistance. Over 60 000 migrants returning back home received reintegration support.
In parallel, in most of the countries of origin and transit across the entire African continent, hundreds of projects were launched and implemented, with the objective to fight migrant smuggling and trafficking, to address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement, and to improve all aspects of migration management.
Looking ahead now, it is clear that we should build on what we achieved and continue working together to address the many common challenges that we still face.
Our priority should be to continue implementing five key objectives: Fostering security development and well managed migration, promoting the use of legal channels of migration and mobility, protecting and assisting asylum seekers and migrants, fighting against irregular migration, cooperating on return and readmission.
And of course, we should deepen our cooperation in promoting sustainable investment and jobs.
By working together along these perspectives, on an equal footing and in real partnership, I am sure we will be able to turn our common challenges into shared opportunities.
We will sustain prosperity, peace and security, for both our continents and our people.
This is not just an opportunity which lies in front of us, but, more than that, it represents a common necessity.
With changing demographics, With poverty and insecurity still on the rise, and with the risk of populism and instability, Europe and Africa need each other more than ever.
In other words, working together will not just be our best way to cope. It will be our only way to deal with the challenges of the 21st century.
Thank you for your attention and I wish you fruitful discussions.