Before anything else let me thank again and congratulate Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for once again organising and hosting an important and productive summit in the beautiful city of Valletta. It is a pleasure to be back here today after the equally successful Valletta Summit in 2015 with our African partners.
Now turning to the results of today’s meeting. We have agreed on immediate operational measures that should help reduce the number of irregular migrants and save lives at the same time. We will train, equip and support the Libyan coastguard to stop people smugglers and increase search and rescue operations. We will deliver economic assistance to local communities in Libya to improve their situation, and help them shelter stranded migrants. And we will work with the International Organisation for Migration to step up voluntary returns from Libya to countries of origin. There will be additional European funds to implement those priority actions. And we will, of course, act in full respect of human rights, international law and European values, and in close cooperation with organisations such as UNHCR and IOM.
We have also decided to support Member States’ bilateral activities directly engaged with Libya. Therefore we welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the Italian and Libyan Prime Ministers as another important and encouraging sign that things are about to change for the better. The European Union and our actions will support Italy and Libya. It is our shared responsibility.
After this press conference, we will meet to discuss the future of the EU as Joseph Muscat has just mentioned with 27 States and our Rome meeting marking the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
But in fact we have started the discussion on the future of Europe already during our lunch. The developments on the international scene remind us of how important a strong EU is. Transatlantic co-operation remains an absolute priority because it has until now been a key pillar of the free world. At the same time we know that today we have no other option than to regain confidence in our own strength.