‘Europe will not close its doors’, Mogherini says building walls not the European way

The European Commission’s Vice-President says the European approach is more just and more successful

Malta's foreign affairs minister George Vella welcoming Federica Mogherini
Malta's foreign affairs minister George Vella welcoming Federica Mogherini

While global forces built walls and tried to close borders to stop migration, Europe would continue to focus on real solutions, believing the issue could be better managed through cooperation and partnership, the European Commission’s Vice-President and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said on Wednesday.

Federica Mogherini, who was addressing participants at a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on state of play implementation of the Joint Valletta Action Plan, held at the Westin Dragonara Resort in St Julian’s, Malta, said that the meeting in Malta was more than a follow-up to the 2015 Valletta Summit.

“With this gathering, we are reaffirming our firm belief that migration can only be managed effectively through cooperation and partnership,” she said. “Building walls and borders is not the European way of dealing with the issues.”

Mogherini said Europe opted for solid long-term solutions over short-term policies.

“Let me make it very clear, Europe does not, and will not, close its doors,” she insisted. “We will continue to work with our partners to manage migration in a fair, humane and effective way because this is the European way of dealing with migration.”

Mogherini said that, as an Italian herself, it was easy for her to recall that Europeans were themselves migrants up to some years ago.

And she noted migratory movements inside Africa were in fact larger than those outside the continent and that there were more displaced migrants in Africa than there were in Europe.

She said that the 4,5000 lives lost at sea in 2016 on the Central Mediterranean route were a stark reminder that more needed to be done.

“We will not rest until this number is down to zero,” she said. “We realise those are people, not numbers, and that behind them are real stories of family members, relatives and friends who very often do not even know the fate of their loved ones.”

Mogherini said European countires needed to understand that they needed migration for their economies and social systems.

“Africa, on the other hand, should consider and acknowledge the cost of doing nothing against people smuggling and the cost illegal migration to its own well-being,” she said. “As we gather here today, we need to be ambitious to turn commitment into action.”

Malta’s foreign affairs minister. George Vella  said the two-day debate would continue to build on Europe’s cardinal principles of dialogue and participation.

He said that the benefits of a legal migratory route needed to be studied and highlighted in the pursuit of a durable solution that did away with haphazard and inefficient temporary policies.

“I urge all of you to continue building on our shared vision,” he said. “The Maltese presidency has committed itself to do all we can to avert further loss of life at sea, but we know that with the coming of spring, boat crossings will resume.”

Vella said he was pleased that a number of countries that had participated in the Valletta Summit had recently launched or introduced awareness campaigns on migration within their own countries.

“These campaigns deliver more visible results when they are part of a broader effort that addresses illegal migration,” he said. “Let us all remember that we are talking about people, about human beings, and not numbers.”

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