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Official speeches and statements - July 25, 2019

Published on July 25, 2019

1. Migration - Informal meeting on migration in the Mediterranean - Joint press communiqué issued by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior (Paris - July 22, 2019)

Conclusions drawn by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Christophe Castaner, Minister of the Interior, from the discussions held during the informal Paris meeting on migration in the Mediterranean on July 22, 2019. The French authorities take sole responsibility for the publication of these conclusions.

A/ Following the Foreign Affairs Council of July 15 and Informal JHA Council Meeting on 18th, France organized an informal working meeting dedicated to migratory issues in the Mediterranean. At the end of this informal working meeting, France, in its chair capacity, drew the following conclusions.

B/ All participants acknowledged that migration, which remains a matter of urgency and concerns, should stay high on the European agenda. Although the numbers of people landing on European coasts are incomparable with those at the height of the 2015 and 2016 crisis, rescue operations carried out in recent weeks have emphasized the fact that this migration route continues to be taken and that many men, women and children are still attempting to travel to Europe by sea, at any cost and often at the risk of their lives. The number of people who have died at sea this year reminds us of this tragedy.

C/ All the participants also expressed their concern about the current fate of migrants and refugees in Libya. Often these people must choose between submitting to mistreatment, abuse and even death - as demonstrated in the tragic bombing of the Tajoura detention centre on July 2 - or embarking on a perilous sea journey. The participants expressed their determination to fight migrant smuggling networks and related criminal activity as well as all practices that harm the safety and fundamental rights of individuals. The participants expressed the need and wish to continue joint efforts for breaking people smugglers’ business model and to simultaneously aim for reducing attempts to dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.

D/ The participants agreed that maritime and disembarkation operations should be conducted in accordance with international law and national and European rules. All vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and have to comply with the instructions of the competent authorities concerned.

E/ In this context, the chair noted that:

  • the participants reiterated the need to find a fair balance between responsibility and solidarity, which underpin the actions of the European Union and its Member States in the field of asylum and migration, as well as the principles of shared responsibility and partnership between countries of origin, transit and destination.
  • Participants highlighted that disembarkations and relocations should be carried out as quickly as possible, taking into account the vulnerability of the persons concerned and the reception capacities. Some agreed that in case an EU Member state is subject to disproportionate pressure, solidarity based arrangements may be made between voluntary member states on disembarkation.
  • Participants shared the common understanding that the ad hoc relocation scheme put in place since the summer of 2018, coordinated by the European Commission and supported by EASO and Frontex, has proven useful to facilitate disembarkations and ensure the reception of asylum seekers through relocation in several EU Member States, but they recognized at the same time that this scheme has not been fully satisfactory, amongst others because only a few EU Member States have engaged in it. They agreed that a more predictable, more efficient and larger temporary mechanism is needed to enable the safe, dignified and expeditious disembarkation of asylum seekers rescued.
  • Many EU Member States are committed to contribute to the reception of disembarked persons and to ensure the rapid relocation of asylum seekers rescued. In this context, they welcomed the efforts engaged since the Informal JHA Council Meeting to develop concrete proposals in the upcoming weeks, to be agreed upon and implemented by the largest number of EU Member States and Schengen associated States.
  • The participants agreed that this temporary mechanism should not open new pathways to European shores and shall avoid the creation of new pull-factors.

F/ With regard to returns, the participants stressed the importance of giving all EU Member States concerned, including the countries of first entry and disembarkation, all the necessary EU assistance, financial and technical, to facilitate the swift, lawful return of disembarked individuals and/or individuals transferred from the countries of first entry, who are not in need of international protection or who have been denied asylum to their country of origin.

They asked the European agencies, particularly Frontex, to support the implementation of these returns, whatever the modalities, in accordance with their mandates.

They called on the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support the voluntary returns of the individuals concerned.

They also called on the Commission, the High Representative and the European External Action Service (EEAS), to intervene with the States of origin to facilitate the readmission of their nationals and issue the necessary travel documents. EU Member States shall coordinate with them to act jointly.

Participants shared the view that the efforts to ensure a sustainable reform of the Common European Asylum System, including the Dublin Regulation, need to be continued based on a balance of responsibility and solidarity, including a relocation mechanism for applications for international protection, taking into account the persons disembarked following search and rescue operations, as foreseen in the conclusions adopted by the European Council on 28 June 2018, and also taking into account reception capacities of Member States, such as the population, area and the GDP.

G/ Concerning Libya and cooperation with countries of origin, transit and first asylum, the participants underlined the need for cooperation between all the competent actors involved in sea rescue operations, to prevent tragedies.

The participants reiterated their full support for the EU-AU-UN Task Force. They called on the Libyan authorities to facilitate the efforts made by the IOM and the United Nations High

Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and to respect the human rights and safety of all individuals in Libya and those rescued at sea in the Libyan search and rescue area. In this context, they also called on the Libyan authorities to put an end to their policy of systematic detention of refugees and irregular migrants, and committed to assist Libyan authorities to develop alternative solutions in coordination with UNHCR and IOM.

The participants reviewed the implementation of their current commitments to resettle refugees from Libya, Niger and other third countries to Europe, and highlighted the importance of swiftly fulfilling these commitments soon, as will be the case for France. The participants concerned also agreed to make new, equally ambitious commitments for the period 2019-2021, and to accelerate the resettlement of evacuees, particularly from Niger.

They expressed their support for the actions undertaken by IOM and UNHCR within their fields of competency, especially in terms of assistance, protection and - respectively - voluntary return and evacuation operations. They highlighted the importance of strengthening financial assistance provided for these purposes.

The participants called for continued EU support to communities hosting migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons.

They called on the Libyan authorities and countries of origin to intensify and facilitate cooperation on voluntary returns, as decided at the Abidjan Summit on November 2017.

Lastly, the participants called for continued EU support for cooperation with countries of origin, transit and asylum in particular in the areas of departure prevention, capacity building for maritime and land border management, asylum, combating the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, as well as addressing the root causes of irregular migration, especially through improving the social and economic conditions and creating the creation of decent and sustainable jobs.

[Source of English text: Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs]

2. Syria - Situation in Idlib - Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (Paris - July 24, 2019)

France expresses its concern over the escalation under way in Idlib Province. Intense and indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian air force in Idlib Province, especially that of a market in the city of Maarat al-Numan, has caused the death of some 59 civilians, according to the UN. France condemns the indiscriminate air strikes carried out by the regime and its allies, especially against civilian infrastructure.

Since the beginning of the offensive, several hundred civilians have been killed and more than 300,000 have been forced to leave the area, according to the UN. In light of this humanitarian crisis, France has released euro5 million in emergency aid to the UN Humanitarian Fund based in Gaziantep.

France calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Idlib Province and reaffirms the special responsibility of the allies of the Syrian regime in preserving a lasting ceasefire. Continuing hostilities compromise the search for a credible, negotiated political solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

3. Iran - Strait of Hormuz / IAEA - Reply by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to a question in the National Assembly (Paris - July 23, 2019)

I’d like to share your tribute to Professor Amano. He was a respected Director General of the IAEA, for his qualities as a scientist, his probity and his passionate commitment to non-proliferation and compliance with the Vienna agreement.

You also mention the tensions in the Arabian-Persian Gulf; those tensions have been heightened since the American decision to withdraw from the Vienna agreement. They were further heightened by Iran’s decision to breach two significant points of the agreement, which means that today we’re pressing Iran to return to the Vienna agreement, and earlier I met President Rouhani’s special envoy to tell him this.

We must carry out a de-escalation process to reduce the tensions. And in this regard, the momentum was clearly halted by the arrest, the seizure of the Stena Impero, the British vessel you mentioned, which took place last Friday, and we condemn that action, but we’re also seeking greater security in the Persian Gulf sea area. That’s why we’re currently embarking on a European initiative, with the British, with the Germans, to ensure there’s a monitoring and observation mission for maritime security in the Gulf.

And this vision is the opposite of the American initiative, which is a desire to exert maximum pressure to ensure Iran goes back on a number of its objectives. And in this regard, we must go even further and consider together a common security approach in the Gulf, diplomatically; then we’ll really be moving towards de-escalation.

4. Ireland - Joint statement by the ministers of state for European affairs of Ireland and France (Paris - July 19, 2019)

France and Ireland share a strong bilateral relationship and a common ambition to build a European Union that ensures freedom, prosperity and progress for its citizens. In this context, the French Minister of State for European Affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, visited Ireland on July 18-19 at the invitation of Ireland’s Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, to hold in-depth talks on the future of the European Union. This visit occurred after the meeting between the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, in Paris on 2 April 2019.

The two ministers of state met in County Meath for a bilateral meeting where they discussed a number of issues of mutual interest.

The two ministers paid a visit to a farm in Louth County, to demonstrate the two countries’ commitment to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). In this respect, France and Ireland consider that the EU’s next Multiannual Financial Framework should maintain the CAP budget at its current EU-27 level in order to meet the economic, environmental and strategic challenges this policy is facing.

The two ministers of state stressed the need for the European Union to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, reaffirming their full commitment to implement the Paris Agreement and their determination to work together in the Council to promote the 2050 carbon neutrality goal and the instruments to reach it.

The two ministers of state also discussed the announced EU-Mercosur trade agreement, stressing the need for a comprehensive impact assessment.

The ministers reiterated the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to migration based on a balance between solidarity and responsibility.

The discussions also focused on progress towards the completion of Economic and Monetary Union. The ministers discussed the work under way in the OECD on international tax reform and they also took stock of the ongoing debate on the evolution of a European minimum wage. Finally, they reaffirmed their commitment to the fundamental values of the European Union and welcomed the Commission’s communication on the rule of law.

The ministers agreed that the European Union must continue to work with member states and elected representatives to engage better with citizens on the implementation of the EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024.

On these shared European priorities, the two ministers of state agreed that France and Ireland should continue to coordinate closely and work together with a view to delivering concrete results that meet citizens’ expectations.

The development of bilateral relations was also discussed, including in the light of Ireland’s recent review on the strengthening of its relations with France. The ministers agreed to strengthen cooperation on shared EU priorities, including through consultations at senior official level. In this context, the Celtic Interconnector project, which will foster the development of renewable energy in both countries and thereby serve the Union’s climate goals, is of particular significance. European funding for this strategic project is of critical importance.

Following the bilateral meeting the ministers paid a joint visit to the border at Ravensdale.

Both ministers reaffirmed the need to protect the Northern Irish peace process and to avoid a hard border. This is the purpose of the "backstop" solution provided for in the withdrawal agreement. Both ministers reiterated their full support for the withdrawal agreement. Both ministers stressed the need to maintain EU unity in support of the Union’s chief negotiator and to preserve the integrity of the single market. The two ministers of state also agreed on the need to protect the interests of EU fishermen and farmers.

[Source of English text: Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website]

5. China - Uighurs - Reply by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs to a written question in the National Assembly (Paris - July 23, 2019)

France has expressed its concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and in the rest of China many times, both in the framework of its bilateral contacts with the Chinese authorities and in UN forums such as the Human Rights Council [HRC].

As the French President recalled during President Xi Jinping’s visit to France in March 2019, France broaches the issue of individual freedoms and basic rights in its dialogue with China in order to express its own and Europe’s concerns about respect for basic rights and about several individual cases. France and the European Union regularly speak out on the issue in the United Nations framework.

For example, during China’s Universal Periodic Review on November 6, 2018, France addressed to the Chinese authorities two recommendations concerning Xinjiang: "to implement all the August 31, 2018 recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Xinjiang, particularly to end mass internments in the region’s camps, and to invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and [the HRC’s] special procedures to go there"; and "to guarantee freedom of religion and belief, including in Tibet and Xinjiang". France and the European Union also conveyed these messages to the Human Rights Council. During its 39th session in September 2018, in its national statement under Point 4 ("Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention"), France called on the Chinese authorities to end arbitrary mass detentions in what they call "re-education camps". The European Union’s statement under Point 4 also provided an opportunity to draw the Chinese authorities’ attention to our concerns about the situation in Xinjiang.

At the HRC’s 40th session in March 2019, both France and the European Union once again publicly expressed their deep concern about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. France is actively taking part in preparations for the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, the first session of which was held at the beginning of April and provided an opportunity to discuss the situation in Xinjiang.

France holds regular, constructive discussions with human rights NGOs, particularly through the Human Rights Ambassador. He visited China in October 2018, before China’s Universal Periodic Review. He had the opportunity to hold meetings with Chinese leaders and members of civil society on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, which the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs will continue to follow with close attention and vigilance, including in the run-up to the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.

France is also being vigilant about the situation of Uighurs living in France, and has taken the necessary measures to take the situation in Xinjiang into account when it comes to handling requests regarding their residence in France, in order to prevent situations which might lead to violations of their basic rights.

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