Following the tragic events of the last days, I am here in Malta first and foremost to express on behalf of the European Commission and the citizens of Europe, our deep sorrow and compassion for the passing at sea of the innocent victims and to honor their memory.
These people left war-torn countries and made long and desperate journeys, guided by a simple dream: to start a new life in Europe.
Thankfully, many others have been luckier and will be given the opportunity to live their dream.
But even one more life lost is one too many. So, the situation in the Mediterranean has to change now. We have to take action now. We will take action now.
Our response is clear and unequivocal. Europe is declaring war on smugglers. Europe is united in this effort. We will do this together with our partners outside Europe. We will work together because smuggling is not a European problem, it is a global one.
At the recent joint meeting of Foreign Affairs and Interior Ministers, which Federica Mogherini and I convened in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, I presented a comprehensive 10-point action plan to deal with the crisis. Member States have expressed broad support for this plan.
The Heads of States and Government will meet this afternoon in order to further discuss these 10 actions but, more importantly to agree, I hope, on the financial, human and material resources that all together as a Union we are ready to make available to implement them.
Today, it was a pleasure to meet again with the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr Joseph Muscat, and many of his Ministers, the Minister of Interior of Italy Angelino Alfano, the Greek Alternate Minister for Social Solidarity Theano Fotiou, and to discuss the critical challenges that we face on the issue of migration.
Malta, like all EU countries in the Mediterranean, stands at the frontline of the crisis. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the efforts of his government to contribute to the shared challenge that we face.
The effectiveness of our response will be determined by two standards:
Unity and solidarity among the Member States of the Union in the way we approach the issue and prevention in the manner we are going to implement policy.
Unity and solidarity because migration is a global challenge and the Mediterranean countries have already stretched their resources in order to tackle the crisis and they cannot do it alone.
Prevention, because we will not stand idle waiting boat after boat, criminals to exploit human desperation putting lives at risk and violating human rights.
As I have already stated, Europe is already at war with the criminal networks that exploit and often condemn to death innocent human beings.
We will not stand idle. With strong political will and resolve, new means and additional resources, we will hunt them down and destroy their capacity.
Let me present you the basic actions of the Commission's proposal in which I referred before:
First, we want to strengthen the Triton and the Poseidon operations managed by Frontex to control the border and save lives.
On both sides of the Mediterranean, Europe should also step up its initiatives in the fight against the smugglers. European Agencies operating in the field (EASO here in Malta, Frontex, EUROPOL, EUROJUST) are ready to work closely in order to support Member States.
If we are to win the fight against the smugglers, Europe needs to be ready to take action in order to seize the boats, destroy them and arrest the smugglers and bring them to justice.
In parallel, we should act upstream in order to dry up the market for the smugglers by offering alternatives to the migrants who are on the move.
These could take the form or resettlement, for those who are genuinely in need of protection, and of assisted voluntary return directly from third countries, for those who are not. We should also take action in Europe in order to support Member States under pressure.
To this end, we could mobilize in full the three agencies - Frontex, EUROPOL, EASO - in the form of joint teams that will intervene on the ground to provide assistance in order to manage the mixed migratory flows.
Looking beyond our most immediate operational response, we need to be very clear and recognize that the migratory flows are not going to disappear anytime soon. The arc of instability that surrounds Europe is generating them and the perspectives for stabilization are only for the long term.
This is why Europe needs to move from the emergency mode to finding structural and sustainable solutions. This will be the subject of the upcoming European Agenda on Migration that the Commission will present mid May. The Agenda will address all challenges posed by migration today, both to migrants themselves but also to our own societies. It will define actions with a broader reach, more long-term and more holistic.
Europe is moving, and will not stop until the justified expectations of our citizens are truly fulfilled.