“Until 2016, 90% of irregular migrants travelled through the Niger to Libya and Europe. In just 2 years, Niger reduced migration flows by 95%, from over 300,000 to about 10,000 in 2018. We need to support this model and extend it to other Sahel countries following the example with Turkey, where we committed 6 billion euros to close the so-called ‘Balkan route’, ” declared European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, at the end of his official visit to Niamey in Niger where he headed a mission of entrepreneurs, researchers, and representatives of international organisations.
“Together with effective control of external borders, the migration crisis must be tackled at source, with investments and economic partnerships triggering economic development and opportunities for young Africans. I am convinced that the mission of economic and technological diplomacy that accompanied me here is a first step to attracting European investment and technology transfers to Niger, “ added Tajani.
President Tajani also underlined the need for a common and strategic European approach to relations with African countries and in particular those in the Sahel region (in addition to Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Chad): “Irregular migration and Africa’s growth require a European-level strategy. Any solution taken at national level ends up being temporary, isolated and ineffective. We need a medium to long term vision, with a real ‘Marshall Plan’ capable of mobilizing large-scale public and private investments in the African continent. In this sense, the collaboration with Niger has been extraordinary and represents a model for many other African countries “.
The President of the European Parliament also visited a refugee reception center run by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) attended by persons evacuated to Niger from Libya. At the center, Tajani expressed his commitment to strengthen the fight against the traffickers who perpetrate unspeakable violence and torture to men, women and children: “These young Somali and Eritrean women refugees told me about the horrible violence they suffered in the Libyan camps. They have been saved thanks to the work of UNHCR and the EU. Their agony drives us to up the fight against the traffickers”.
President Tajani was received in Niamey by the President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou, the President of the Nigerian National Assembly Ousseini Tini, and Prime Minister Brigi Rafini. Tajani had meetings and talks with the Presidents of the National Assemblies of the G5 Sahel countries and with the Secretary General of the Community of the 29 States of Sahel and Sahara (CEN-SAD), Ibrahim Sani Abani.
Tajani also stressed the importance of starting a process of democratization in Libya with the aim of stabilizing the entire region: “Apart from Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania are also our key partners to reach a solution to the Libyan crisis. Consequently, I invited representatives from these countries to participate in the conference in support of the organization of democratic elections in Libya that the European Parliament will organize in Brussels on 10 October, ” Tajani announced.
During his visit, the President of the European Parliament also undertook to strengthen the Erasmus + programme for Nigerian students and to conduct further joint initiatives in the strategic sectors of renewable energy, agriculture, water management and digital.