UN General Assembly, day 4: between Syria and Palestine, Afghanistan and the Balkans

UN General Assembly, day 4: between Syria and Palestine, Afghanistan and the Balkans

I write after another full day at the United Nations, in a General Assembly that is dealing with the great global issue of migrants and refugees, while working to address the crises that surround Europe. Starting with Syria. Today another meeting of the International Syria Support Group is in the agenda, and yesterday we worked to prepare the event. I spoke at length about Syria with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov (here is my statement on the meeting), and with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif. With him I also prepared the ministerial meeting I will chair today, to take stock of the implementation of the nuclear deal we reached a year ago together with the US, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany (here is the statement). The most ancient outstanding issue of the Middle East, the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, was at the centre of a long meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In the coming days we will gather the Middle East Quartet – where the European Union sits together with the United Nations, the United States and Russia – to shake life back into the two-State perspective, and to encourage concrete steps in this direction. Then Afghanistan, which is still struggling to find stability after decades of war. Afghanistan will be the focus of a big conference we are organising in Brussels in the first days of October: this is what I discussed yesterday with Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. But the UN General Assembly is also the opportunity to tackle great global issues – such as the fight against terrorism and radicalisation, which we discussed at the...
In Nigeria. Security, investments and hope for Africa

In Nigeria. Security, investments and hope for Africa

Just got back from Abuja, Nigeria, for my sixth trip to Africa in a year. I was at the Regional Security Forum with the Presidents of the Lake Chad area: I brought with me Europe’s contribution and support to eradicate Boko Haram’s violence, as 50 million euros have just been allocated to the Multinational Joint Task Force against the terrorist group. And beyond the fight against terror, we are working with them to promote economic development, to deal with the effects of climate change, to fight corruption, to create new job opportunities especially for young people, to invest of infrastructure, on public services, on education. Ultimately this is the real way to defeat the terrorist madness: invest in education, build up a better future, make people and communities stronger. Immunise Africa against terrorism. This is also the best, smartest and most effective way to deal with migration. For this very reason we are financing new projects worth over 700 million euros, with the Trust Fund for Africa we launched last December. The work is in progress, and goes beyond the old logic of “aid:” we now invest as partners. We work with governments, of course, and with the international organisations, but also with local authorities and with civil society organisations. My meeting with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign (pictured above) was the most moving moment during my trip to Nigeria. I had the opportunity to listen to the pain of the girls’ families, and to their determination to find the girls and bring them back home. But I saw an even stronger desire to provide all children of their communities, of this country and of Africa with a life...
One Europe, from the Arctic to Lampedusa

One Europe, from the Arctic to Lampedusa

A day split in two, from the extreme north to the extreme south of our continent, from the Arctic to Lampedusa. I just got back from the European Parliament, where together with Martin Schulz, Gianni Pittella and the Partito democratico delegation we talked about Lampedusa, its strength and its humanity. We were joined by director Gianfranco Rosi and Pietro Bartolo, a medical practitioner starring in the award-winning Fuocoammare documentary movie, which we watched together today. I had already met Rosi and the movie’s cast two weeks ago in Lampedusa. Over there I saw with my own eyes the courage of the islanders and the beauty of the island – the beauty of its places and of the people who are daily engaged in saving lives and welcoming people. I had the opportunity to verify first hand the change Lampedusa went through since my previous visits, in October 2014: back then, Italy alone was taking care for the search and rescue and for the welcoming, today our Union is finally in Lampedusa. It is a promise I had made to the island in 2014: I promised I would tell the island’s story to the whole of Europe, and to involve the whole of Europe in dealing with migrations. We are still far from a full “europeanisation” of migration and asylum policies. Still, Italy is not alone any more, as our Union is saving lives and fighting the human traffickers in the Mediterranean. This can only make us proud. This is the true Europe – one that does not pretend to close its eyes and its borders, and saves lives instead. Gianfranco Rosi has shown this solidarity to a greater audience. In the movie,...
Lampedusa: the gate of Europe, the heart of Europe

Lampedusa: the gate of Europe, the heart of Europe

At times you need to reach to the gate of Europe to see the continent’s best face. I am writing from Teheran, where I arrived last night at the end on a beautiful and intense day in Lampedusa, a small island to the south of Sicily. The day had started onboard the Cavour aircraft carrier, the flagship of Operation Sophia, which has been saving lives and hunting human traffickers in the Mediterranean since last summer. It has been a year since the tragedy in the strait of Sicily, when more than eight hundred people lost their lives. That was the turning point in our efforts to involve the whole of Europe in dealing with the crisis at our borders. On the shame for that disaster – and for the indifference our continent had shown before it – we managed to build something good. After the tragedy we set up Operation Sophia, which since then has arrested 68 traffickers, seized a hundred boats and saved 13,000 human lives from the water, including 800 hundred children. Among them was little Sophia, who was born onboard one of our ships, gave the name to the operation and is now safe and sound inside Europe together with her mother. We can be proud of all this, this is our Europe – and the European flag flies atop the Cavour, together with the Italian flag. I thanked rear admiral Enrico Credendino, who leads the Operation, for the many saved lives, and I thanked all the military personnel: they come from 24 European countries and show the best of Europe – a Union that builds peace and solidarity, not walls. Straight afterwards on the...