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Migration summit: "We are in a race against time to save Schengen" - Tusk

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

The Valletta Summit on Migration ended early this afternoon with a Final Declaration and Action Plan which Joseph Muscat described as "an important first step for a two-way relationship" between Europe and Africa.

“The action plan shows maybe for the first time, the commitment by Europe to see the relationship flourish,” the Maltese prime minister said.

European Council President Donald Tusk said this had been a frank and productive discussion.

"What we have agreed is a crucial step in reinforcing our cooperation, we now need to get moving on implementing the action plan in partnership and solidarity."

He explained how the action plan is aimed to address the causes of migration, enhance cooperation on legal migration, reinforce protection of displaced persons, fight migrant smuggling, and make progress on readmission of persons not entitled to stay in Europe.

"We are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives"- Tusk

What was even more important, he said, was the long list of actions to be implemented by the end of next year.

Among them were projects to create jobs in countries of origin and transit, the doubling of the number of students in Erasmus Plus programmes, the establishment of regional development programmes in central and north Africa, the setting up of a joint investigation team in Niger to fight migrant trafficking and then develop it in other countries, and the facilitation of migrant returns by a number of steps such as African officials coming to Europe to identify irregular migrants.

To help implement the commitment, the EU has formally set up a trust fund of €1.8 billion on top of other development assistance of €20 billion every year.

“We cannot improve the situation overnight but we are committed to giving people alternatives to risking their lives,” Mr Tusk said.

The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, said Europe and Africa had pooled their efforts and adopted a strong political declaration and action plan .

"We are neighbouring continents linked by history, geography and cooperation and we must consider action on migration in dialogue and direct exchanges." direct exchanges.
 
"A compromise that has been reached can be improved, but the important thing is that it is implemented," he said.

Saving Schengen is a race against time. And we are determined to win that race

Replying to a question on the re-imposition of border controls by some EU countries, Mr Tusk admitted that this was a race to save the Schengen Agreement.

Citing Sweden's move to reimpose checks on arrivals from other EU countries and new measures in Germany and Slovenia, he said that these showed EU states were under "huge pressure."

"Saving Schengen is a race against time. And we are determined to win that race."

That, he said, would require implementing the series of measures agreed among EU governments over the past few months.

"This includes, first and foremost, restoring external border control. Without effective border control, the Schengen rules will not survive."

"We must hurry, but without panic."  

Dr Muscat said new rules and institutions were needed both to save Schengen and to tackle migration. Building walls was never a solution he stressed, adding jokingly that it was difficult for Malta to build walls in the sea against migrants.

See the Political Declaration and Action Plan at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/11/12-valletta-final-docs/

BISHOPS CALL FOR PRAYERS

In a statement the Bishops of Malta and Gozo called on the faithful  to pray so that the initiatives being discussed would lead to concrete solutions and a better world with fair distribution of wealth.  

"As a Church, and mother to all, we pray to God that, as expressed by Pope Francis, the countries will have “a generous openness which, rather than fearing the loss of local identity, will prove capable of creating new forms of cultural synthesis.”  

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