Speaking on the Valetta Summit

I welcome a number of the initiatives taken by those representing our interests at Valetta. 

Whilst migration may have not dominated the news of the last few weeks that does not mean that the challenges we face have faded away. 

Valetta highlighted the need for more international cooperation but also illustrated that Europe needs to harness all of its political will; and political persuasion in order to find solutions for the humanitarian crisis before us. 

Valetta was an important step; but I believe that, in many ways, there were also a number of missed opportunities. Valetta should be seen as only a starting point for more ambitious agreements we must arrive at in the future.

The missed opportunities I refer to are the need to find agreement on readmission policies. 

Readmission and returns must form a central focus of our long term cooperation with our non EU partners.

It is a fact that our asylum system simply cannot work if these agreements are not in place.

More avenues for legal migration and more EU funds will not solve the problem. Those legal avenues will never be able to satisfy the demand and the desire to come here. 

I agree that economic development of African nations is of course an important long term goal for the EU.

Economic development in African countries will provide opportunities and a real future for young people in their own home countries; avoiding skills shortages there and developing those countries as future trading partners for the EU.

But Europe needs solutions now;

Europe needs to stabilise the current situation now. 

And returning those that do not qualify for asylum has to be part of that solution. 

By reducing the number of economic migrants entering the EU illegally, we increase the opportunity of being able to offer the most vulnerable refugees caught up in conflict a better future.

This was an important summit, and African nations especially have an important role to play; but we must now look to extend the hand of cooperation further afield.  

We have a crisis of global proportions which requires a global as well as a European response.