The German Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier attended a conference on migration and refugee policy in Rome on 28 November, together with representatives from 58 countries. During his visit, he also met his counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.
The conference on the Khartoum Process to fight human trafficking and smuggling in the Horn of Africa was organised by the Italian EU Council Presidency. Representatives from 58 countries discussed European refugee policy and the causes of migration. In his opening statement, Steinmeier said that migration and refugee policy in a spirit of partnership was an essential element of European foreign policy.
After the conference, Steinmeier and Gentiloni gave a joint press conference. The German Foreign Minister paid tribute to “Italy’s special expertise” in the area of the EU’s southern neighbourhood, which was also expressed in the organisation of today’s conference. With the initiative to host the refugees conference, he said, Italy is “providing important impetus” in the bid to help the refugees. In view of the increasing numbers of refugees, the topic is not primarily an Italian, but a European one, he added. The countries in attendance agreed that a policy of “pulling up the drawbridge” was not an answer to the mammoth refugee problem, said Steinmeier.
German-Italian action plan to fight the causes of the refugee crisis
Steinmeier and Gentiloni also agreed to set up a joint German-Italian initiative, announcing an action plan to fight the causes of flight and migration. The aim of this action plan, Steinmeier said, was to improve humanitarian aid for refugees and develop strategies to fight the causes of flight and migration more effectively. The refugee crisis can primarily be traced back to weak state institutions and catastrophic economic conditions in the countries of origin, he added.
However, Steinmeier pointed out that this would require a “policy of patience” and that changes cannot be expected within a short space of time. It is important to promote dialogue with the countries of origin and transit, he said, adding that the Khartoum Process was an important part of these efforts.
The German Foreign Minister also announced his intention to pay special attention to the question of Libya at consultations of the EU Foreign Ministers to be held in Brussels next week. Libya, which is also an important transit country for refugees from the Horn of Africa, is currently moving further away from political solutions, Steinmeier said.
In addition to attending the conference, Steinmeier met his Italian counterpart Gentiloni and the Somalian Foreign Minister Abdirahman Du’ale Beyle for bilateral talks in Rome.
Commitment to long-term solutions
In a joint article with Foreign Minister Gentiloni published prior to the conference, Foreign Minister Steinmeier advocated a long-term solution to the current refugee crises. This solution “can only be found together with the countries of origin and transit”, Steinmeier and Gentiloni wrote. “We must not leave countries in the lurch that border on the world’s trouble spots and are therefore under an enormous strain as primary host countries,” they argued. Only when migration topics are an integral part of European foreign policy, the two foreign ministers went on, “will we be able to make an effective contribution to coping with migration crises”.
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“Building high fences will not be enough” - Joint article by the German and Italian Foreign Ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Paolo Gentiloni, published in Die Frankfurter Rundschau and Il Messagero on 28 November 2014