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Brussels, 27 August 2014
Statement by Commissioner Malmström after the meeting with Italian Interior Minister Alfano
It is a pleasure for me to be here today and to receive my friend Minister Alfano. We have had a very intense and constructive meeting and I thank the Minister for his visit.
I would like to start by also thanking Minister Alfano and Italy for the immense work they have been doing under the Mare Nostrum operation. Italy has contributed to saving more than hundred thousand people under very difficult conditions and this is something that needs to be acknowledged by the whole world.
We need to recall that the Mare Nostrum operation was a response to the terrible event in Lampedusa, last October. It was created as an emergency operation but is has been clear that this is not an effort that Italy can carry out all alone.
It is now coming to a more structural challenge. We live in very difficult times. We have poverty, war, dictatorship and oppression very near the European border and many people run away from this and seek shelter in the European Union and many of them come via Italy.
I want to make clear that we have discussed today the future of Mare Nostrum and on how to manage migration in the Mediterranean. The European Commission will do its utmost to make sure that the whole European Union, that all the Member States, will play an increased role in helping Italy to manage the migration issue in the Mediterranean.
And that is why we have been working together intensely on a new Frontex operation, which aim will be to increase the assistance to Italy. We have decided that the two ongoing Frontex operations Hermes and Aeneas will be merged and extended into a new upgraded operation.
The aim is to put in place an enlarged 'Frontex plus' to complement what Italy has been doing. This operation should in principle succeed the Hermes operation and we hope that it can be in place by the end of November. It should count on more human and technical resources and more Member States participating.
As you know, there are no European border guards nor planes or ships, so the success of this operation will depend on the contribution of EU Member States.
Frontex and Italy are right now sitting identifying the last details on the necessary needs when it comes to scope and assets and so on. Once this is done, in the next days Frontex will launch a call for Member States participation and contribution.
I expect all Member States to contribute and I will personally together with the Minister do whatever I can to make sure that all Member States are ready to offer guest officers or to deploy technical assistance.
Frontex will need more money and we will explore internally in the European Commission of course how we can vaccum clean and reallocate within the Frontex budget. But it is also necessary to find solutions for the financing of new Frontex operations and I hope that Italy, as the country holding the Presidency of the EU, can do a good job here.
Let me conclude by saying that after each tragedy in the Mediterranean there has been calls from all Member States saying that they deplore these losses of lives. This is of course important, this oral solidarity. But that solidarity now needs to be transformed into concrete action. That is why I call upon all Member States to contribute to this new operation because it is a concern to all of us and it is a challenge that will not disappear.