ROME, FEBRUARY 2 – Ahead of the European informal summit of La Valletta in Malta, the Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni and his Libyan colleague Fayez al Sarraj signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation to combat illegal migration, human trafficking and contraband and on reinforcing the borders between Libya and Italy.
Gentiloni welcomed al-Sarraj at Palazzo Chigi: ‘Today it’s an important day for Libya. A friendship is getting stronger, as well our mutual coooperation”, said the Prime Minister adding that the memorandum marks a further step: “It strengthens the cooperation between Italy and Libya, while putting all the Italian commitment to support Libyan efforts against human trafficking and illegal immigration. Both our countries are victims”, Gentiloni said: “It’s a scourge that has hit Italy, Libya, Europe as well as the people who are its victims”.
Prime Minister al-Sarraj defined “extremely fruitful” the meeting: “Weput in place a strategic cooperation based on mutual respect. Now we have also a new horizon”. The Libyan leader announced negotiations to reach “economic agreements of mutual benefit”. On his part, Gentiloni assured the Libyan people that Italy “would never access any agreement violating Libyan sovreignity”.
Libya is a country of transit, not of origin, “and this is an agreement to protect also our borders”, al-Sarraj agreed, stressing that the Government of National Accord will not allow to the European ships of Operation Sophia to enter Libyan territorial waters: “We want a joint command to modernize the Libyan fleet, so that it will be in the conditions to do its job within our waters”.
The goal of stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy is “within reach” with Rome and Tripoli set to sign a cooperation agreement on this issue, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday. After talking with Italian Premier Gentiloni, Libyan Prime Minister al-Serraj, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, the leaders had “agreed on the need to support Italy in this cooperation”.
“Europe must be at Italy’s side in sharing this responsibility,” Tusk added. Todays memorandum of understanding follows the presentation of a new 200-million-euro Fund for Africa to “reinforce the external border to stop the departure of illegal migrants”. The money – explained the Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano during a press conference in Rome – was set aside for cooperation, primarily with Libya, Tunisia and Niger, on top of 430 million already available. “Boosting the external border to avoid the departure of illegal migrants” is the “strategic” objective of the Fund for Africa, Alfano said. Italy will provide “equipment, technical instruments and training of local security forces” based on the requests of its North African partners and the effective implementation of the project will be verified, he added.