Official speeches and statements - June 19, 2018
1. Italy - Migration crisis - Statements by Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, at his joint press conference with Mr. Giuseppe Conte, Prime Minister of Italy (Paris - June 15, 2018)
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m very pleased to have welcomed the Italian Prime Minister, cher Giuseppe, for a working breakfast today, which provided us with an opportunity to build on the discussions we’ve had several times in recent weeks, by telephone and in person a few days ago at the G7 summit we shared in Canada.
The discussions enabled us to identify points on which we agree on many issues where cooperation between our countries is essential; essentially our discussion focused on two issues: migration and the Euro Area. For me, those two issues should also, as far as we’re concerned, be seen as comparable: they’re a test for the Europe we believe in and a test for our countries. On those two issues, Europe has in recent years lacked effectiveness and solidarity. On each of them I’ve also, for several months, been urging in-depth reform, which is the only thing that will enable us to take up the challenges we face. And I believe the time has come. The situations we’ve experienced again in recent days on the migration issue have shown it: our collective organization isn’t the right one, and we’re unable to address the challenge we face today. So on the first issue, migration, we have to remember that when we talk about it there are, first and foremost, human tragedies, human lives, individual situations, and we must never lose sight of our collective duty. On this issue I haven’t forgotten, either, what Italy’s had to undergo since 2015, with mass arrivals in 2015 and 2016, particularly from the North African coast and via the central Mediterranean. And here I also want to remind people of what the situation actually is, because I’ve heard a lot of untruths about the figures and the reality of what we’re having to experience. Italy has had to put up with a lot of direct arrivals, but as a result of extremely significant work those arrivals have been reduced, and in the first half of 2018 there’s been a 77% reduction in arrivals from North Africa and in particular Libya. And France itself isn’t a country that is taking advantage of the European collective system and in particular the so-called Dublin rules, because we’re a country where an increasing number of women and men are arriving, via the western, central or eastern [Mediterranean] routes.
Here I want to recall the figures: while Italy had 18,000 asylum applications during the first four months of 2018, France had 26,000. France had almost 100,000 last year and Italy 129,000. And so a lot of people make mistakes by mixing up all the figures, but we’re also a country where people arriving lodge asylum applications, because we’re a country not of first arrivals - which is Italy’s major challenge, in particular for the Mediterranean routes - but a country where women and men come to reapply for asylum after initially being rejected or registered in another Schengen country.
Both France and Italy today have to manage this migration crisis. And we have to provide responses together, and I believe our whole discussion enabled us, first of all, to demonstrate this shared responsibility and this shared desire to get things done; this desire not only to be more humane and effective in dealing with the issue but also to take a cooperative approach together and advocate European solutions. I believe very strongly that on this issue there can be no national response; the right response is European, but the current European response isn’t appropriate, and current European solidarity - in particular with Italy in recent years - hasn’t been up to the mark.
So on this issue we’ve decided to move forward on several paths: firstly, to step up the work we could do in partnership with several other member states in relation to the other Mediterranean countries, and in particular the southern shore of the Mediterranean. In recent years we’ve started work on cooperation, training and development; we must continue and intensify this, including by taking new initiatives, and our wish is to begin work together that must also involve Spain and also Germany. I’ll have the chance to talk to the Chancellor in the next few hours, before the summit and the Franco-German Council of Ministers next Tuesday - Prime Minister Conte will be in Germany himself on Monday - and so we’d like, with our partners, to launch additional concrete initiatives that will allow us to forestall these flows and provide a genuine humanitarian response, because the humanitarian response doesn’t begin when boats arrive in our waters; it begins the day when women and men are put in the situation of having to take to the sea and risk their lives. And so this cooperation must be further strengthened, even though we’ve already taken several initiatives to this effect in recent years.
In this respect, we’ll also be continuing our political cooperation on issues like Libya, and I want to thank the Prime Minister again for the good cooperation we had politically during the conference organized by Paris, and the follow-up we’re going to carry out together so that we can organize follow-up conferences on this extremely important subject.
Our desire is also to make progress together - and I proposed this a few months ago - on greater common protection of our borders, greater investment by Europe in the so-called Frontex mechanism, and convergence between our asylum systems. This reform is essential if we really want to move forward and make progress; it can’t simply be the responsibility of the countries of first arrival in the European Union. On this issue I’ve always supported the Italian position; it’s one of the proposals I made last autumn.
Finally, we’d also like to make progress together with our partners in the coming months on a thorough revision of the so-called Dublin system, to organize the rules of responsibility and solidarity more effectively. Today, the current system isn’t working; the quota-based systems of solidarity once sought are clearly not bringing satisfactory results. So we must find tailored mechanisms enabling each state to take responsibility when non-Schengen nationals arrive on its soil, but also allowing for solidarity so that our geographical situation doesn’t put us in untenable political situations.
On this issue, I think we also share the determination to promote joint initiatives for the June Council and work with our partners towards this.
As I said, over the past year we’ve got some very tangible results. We can and must improve the situation; I’m convinced that on migration, we need to pursue, at the practical and political levels, initiatives on which there is a huge amount of European cooperation in the coming weeks, to really tackle the crisis we have.
I think there also has to be a stronger European response to the economic situation in many countries; the Euro Area hasn’t managed to deal with its basic imbalances and its failures, although it’s faring better today.
So the Prime Minister and I talked about this at length, and on this point I reiterated France’s positions, our determination to move towards a Euro Area budget which gives the Euro Area greater convergence, additional investment through stabilization by cushioning the impact of economic crises on the most vulnerable states. Our desire, too, to find very practical ways in the next few weeks of deepening banking union, which must allow us to make the European banking market more stable and better able to finance the economy.
Along with migration and a few other subjects, these subjects will also be at the heart of the meeting I’ll be having with Angela Merkel in a few days’ time and the issues we’ll have to discuss, promote with Italy and Germany, on which we’ll have to take key decisions and courses of action at the June Council.
We also talked about other issues of common interest which sustain, drive the bilateral relationship and our place in Europe: Defense Europe and the European intervention initiative, on which we’d like to build a common strategic culture; obviously the projects we’ve begun on the European Defense Fund and PESCO, the cultural and educational projects linking our two countries and a bilateral agenda which includes and will continue to include many topical issues.
There you are, ladies and gentlemen, I won’t make these introductory remarks any longer, I’ll just say that I’d very much like France and Italy in the coming days, weeks and months to work hand in hand, together, to help take action and propose European solutions, especially with their partners - Spain, Germany and all the other states which would like to join in - and I’d like us to promote concrete European initiatives to respond to the two main present-day challenges of migration and the Euro Area’s convergence and economic development.
I really want to thank Prime Minister Conte for being in Paris today; I know what the first few days and weeks of taking office are like and how tough they are. I think the discussion we’ve had has allowed us to work on this common position on many issues. At any rate, I want him to know that he has a French president here who loves Italy and wants to succeed with it in a stronger Europe. Thank you, and thank you cher Giuseppe.