I want to congratulate you warmly on your election as President of the European Parliament, and to wish you and all the Members of the House well for 2017.
No-one can have any doubts that it will be an extraordinary year for Europe and the European Union. Last year, we managed to make progress on migration, security and the economy in spite of the unprecedented difficulties we faced. This was thanks, in great part, to your hard work and sense of responsibility in responding to events. Similarly, I trust that we will rise together to meet the challenges of the next months.
I would now like to briefly outline the main results of the December European Council. Leaders discussed our efforts to regain control on migration. The radical drop in irregular migration on the Eastern Mediterranean route was possible thanks to our decision to get back to Schengen, the closure of the Western Balkan route and Turkey’s co-operation. In this context, leaders stressed their commitment to implement the EU-Turkey Statement, which also requires efforts from the Turkish side.
As regards the Central Mediterranean route, High Representative Mogherini reported on the progress with African countries. Last year, one hundred and eighty thousand migrants arrived irregularly to Italy. This is a situation that cannot continue. That is why Libya and our approach to the Central Mediterranean route will be the key point of the next informal summit in Malta. As you know, the EU supports the Government of National Accord and its efforts to consolidate peace and stability in Libya. We stand ready to step up the EU’s engagement to strengthen the capacity to address security issues and consolidate institutions, in full respect of Libyan sovereignty.