Statement by President Von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the G7 leaders' meeting on Afghanistan via videoconference

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 24 augustus 2021.

Thank you very much,

Before entering into the subject, I would like to thank our colleagues from the External Action Service for their hard and dedicated work over the last days and also the strong support we got from the Member States, especially France, Italy, Belgium and Spain, concerning the evacuation of the EU Delegation and the Afghan staff. I am very grateful that most of the EU's staff, including the Afghan staff, and including their families, have been evacuated now from Afghanistan and are safe.

Now turning towards the G7 i leaders' meeting we just had. First of all, I want to thank the United Kingdom Presidency for convening this meeting. We all agreed that it is our moral duty to help the Afghan people and to provide as much support as possible as conditions allow. The situation is indeed a tragedy for the Afghan people and it is a major setback for the international community. It was therefore timely that the G7 met and it was very good that we had as guest the NATO i Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg i, and the UN i Secretary-General, António Guterres. In this meeting of the G7, we discussed evacuations, immediate humanitarian aid, longer-term development assistance and possible scenarios for refugees in need of protection.

On the humanitarian aid let me tell you that our key EU operations on medical facilities, food distribution, emergency water supply and sanitation are mostly still running. That is good. But of course, the events we see these days create significant additional needs. We need to help mostly those who are at immediate risk. And those are women, girls and children, who make up the vast majority of internally displaced people - 80% of the internally displaced people in Afghanistan are women and girls, and up to now the number runs up to around 3.7 million internally displaced people in Afghanistan. And this is why there was broad determination to step up contribution in humanitarian aid.

I announced that the Commission will propose to almost quadruple the humanitarian aid coming from the EU budget. We had planned initially for more than EUR 50 million for the year 2021. We will now increase it to over EUR 200 million for the year 2021. This will help meet the urgent needs of Afghans both in Afghanistan but also of course in the neighbouring host countries.

The second topic I want to address is the discussion about the development assistance. I, and many others, stressed that the future development assistance has to be condition-based. It always is condition-based, linked to fundamental values, human rights, and of course women's rights. And it is self-speaking that the development assistance of the future has also to be strictly condition-based. As you might now, we have EUR 1 billion set aside for the next seven years for Afghanistan in the EU development assistance. This aid is now frozen. And it is frozen until we have solid guarantees and credible actions on the ground that the conditions are being met.

Finally, on migration. As I said, the people most at risk are educated women, are girls, are female journalists, human rights activists, female teachers, judges, lawyers, just to name some. 50 countries took part in the ISAF NATO mission, and 36 countries took part in the Resolute Support Mission. So to protect these most vulnerable is clearly a matter for global cooperation and it has to be dealt with as such from the start. These people should not fall into smugglers' hands. They need safe pathways.

And therefore, I welcome that during the G7, Canada announced and the UK announced significant numbers for resettlement: respectively 21,000 and 20,000. Also the United States announced their commitment for resettlement. It is important that this issue, as it has to be dealt on a global level, is coordinated. And it is good that we have in place the Resettlement Forum. The Resettlement Forum, in which not only the Commission and Member States are, but also the UNHCR i, the IOM i, the United States, Canada. And there, we can coordinate resettlement efforts in the manner it is needed now in this acute situation.

I think that beyond those I have just named, other countries who took part in the NATO mission should contribute to this effort too. The European Union is ready to play its role too. We are looking into the necessary budgetary means to support EU Member States who will step up and help resettle. Alongside these very targeted measures for well-defined groups, our main effort should be to ensure that, as I have said, internally displaced Afghans are supported or the international community contributes to their support in the neighbouring countries. So the support also for the region is of utmost importance. Therefore, we will continue, of course, also as a European Union to work with the countries in the immediate region.

Finally, let me stress once again that these events we see these days all underline the urgent need for the Member States and the European Parliament to find an agreement on our proposed Pact on Migration and Asylum. We need a fully functioning system in place that allows us to effectively manage our borders, to ensure solidarity between Member States and to cooperate with countries of origin and transit.