27.10.2009 - Joint letter from Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi.

Joint letter from Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, and Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, to Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden and President-in-office of the European Union Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

Illegal immigration continues to represent a significant challenge for the European Union and for all its Member States, from a humanitarian, political and social point of view. Illegal immigration networks are exerting unprecedented pressure on the European Union’s external borders, in particular in the Mediterranean, and are testing the common immigration and asylum policy which was defined in the Pact one year ago.

The Mediterranean is therefore an important test for the credibility of European action and for the implementation of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.

The European Council of 18 and 19 June gave a clear political signal in support of Europe’s renewed commitment to combating illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, in the light of the comprehensive, balanced approach adopted by the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. Concrete action on an ambitious scale must now be taken in response to that commitment.

The forthcoming European Council cannot simply take stock of the current situation. It must decide immediately on areas of action which will be enacted, in the medium term, in the future five-year programme in the areas of freedom, security and justice, known as the "Stockholm Programme”.

Against this background, if we assess the initiatives already presented by the Commission at the Council on 21 September, we believe that clear and specific policies to strengthen the FRONTEX agency are essential and must be adopted without delay. They are based on the following five aspects:

- development of a clear shared operational doctrine for maritime operations in the Mediterranean, geared to the interception and return [of illegals], with due regard for our international obligations;

- cooperation between the FRONTEX agency and each of the migrants’ countries of departure in order to coordinate our operations to combat illegal immigration at sea;

- creation of specialized FRONTEX offices wherever necessary, starting with the Mediterranean, to coordinate surveillance and control operations as close to the ground as possible, having strict regard to the unique position held by the FRONTEX agency;

- regular charter by FRONTEX of joint deportation flights for illegal immigrants at European level;

- creation of a FRONTEX-coordinated "Erasmus” programme for coastguards, leading to the emergence of a Europe-wide genuine professional coastguard community.

It is also necessary to consolidate the recent downward trend in illegal migratory flows from Libya by means of an agreement with that country. It must include operational clauses to support border control measures and to step up cooperation in matters of return. Partnerships must also be forged with the appropriate international institutions in order to develop an area of protection for eligible individuals. In this context, ad hoc solutions must be trialled as regards access to asylum procedures outside Europe.

Similar efforts must be made in relation to other countries in the region, first and foremost Turkey, who must accept her responsibilities, especially with regard to border control and readmission.

More generally, it is necessary to mobilize the countries of origin, transit and destination along the main migratory routes in order to centre their cooperation on combating clandestine immigration networks and preventive measures.

Italy and France have already put forward several specific proposals regarding the Mediterranean and FRONTEX, as well as on solidarity between Member States, which must go beyond words towards a genuine sharing of responsibilities. We expect decisions to be taken at the next European Council./.

Last modified on 04/11/2009

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