Less than two months ago, the European Council tasked us to prepare an operation in the Mediterranean, to save lives, first of all, and disrupt the business model of human traffickers and smugglers. The operation is being launched today.
It is probably the first time the European Union takes the issue of migration so seriously and acts in such a fast way, with unanimity and unity. The target, let me be very clear, are not the migrants, the targets are those who are making money on their lives and too often on their deaths.
But this is just one part of a bigger strategy to save lives. From the external affairs’ perspective, our work is focusing on what happens before men, women and children reach the Mediterranean shores. That is why I met the five Foreign ministers of the Sahel countries just last week, with a special focus on Niger and the region of Agadez. That is why we are working with the African Union on our Summit in Malta later this year. And with the African countries in particular we are working on economic opportunities, employment opportunities for the young people, the control of the borders and the fight against international crime and criminal organisations.
We also work on an everyday basis on the root causes, namely poverty and crises and conflicts – in particular in Syria, in Yemen and in Libya – as well as with the UN agencies dealing with migrants and refugees in countries of transit.
The naval operation will be conducted in partnership with our international partners. Member States from all parts of the European Union are contributing: it is a powerful sign of unity, which should be confirmed when dealing with the internal dimension of the issue of migration.