Migration problems are a shared respsonsibility – Deputy Prime Minister

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Speaking during a meeting of General Affairs Council in Luxembourg today, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech emphasised the importance of solidarity and shared responsibility if the EU is to effectively address the human tragedy of migration flows in the Mediterranean.

EU Ministers responsible for European Affairs held a teleconference over lunch with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to prepare for the upcoming European Council and discuss the draft Conclusions.

Malta, together with Greece and Italy made a proposal considering migration flows for consideration by the European Council which garnered support by a number of European Ministers.

The Deputy Prime Minister stated that it was not possible for the EU to treat recent events as if they were yesterday’s business and called for a debate by the Heads of State and Government at the next European Council later on this week.

He also added that the conclusions need to recall the importance that current policies and tools, including legal, are reviewed in order to “make them work” for the challenges of today.

The Deputy Prime Minister said that the European Union comes out extremely passive when faced with a situation that is so sensitive and tragic for so many people. He also added that while the European Union was in its reflective mood, organized crime in the form of smuggling and trafficking of persons was rife and increasing relentlessly.

“The Union is doing too little too late” and stated that it was unfortunate that so many hundreds of people had to perish for the issue to be brought once again at the forefront of discussion at European level. He highlighted the need that European action has to be commensurate with the significance of the phenomenon and the magnitude of the challenge.

The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised that this matter deserves a serious and comprehensive European approach. In this regard, Malta welcomed the recent decision to establish the Task Force. The Deputy Prime Minister called for the Task Force to address fundamental issues which are long overdue, in the spirit of solidarity and shared responsibility as reflected in Article 80 of the Treaty.

The Task Force has a catalytic role to play but its remit cannot be curtailed to a mere stock-take and thus should be mandated to come up with new ideas and identify concrete measures that can be implemented both in the short and long term.

In this regard, the Deputy Prime Minister made reference to joint initiatives in order to mobilise the involvement of international initiatives including those of the United Nations and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), especially with regard to cooperation with third countries of origin and transit, particularly Libya.

He underlined that it was also important to take concrete action to develop the capacity for the establishment of a comprehensive asylum system in countries of origin and transit so that asylum applications can be handled through this system. It was also important to address the causes of the problem in the countries of origin, including through the mobilisation of the EU development co-operation policy. In this regard, he underlined the importance to develop a realistic European return policy.

In his concluding remarks on migration flows the Deputy Prime Minister stated that all efforts will prove futile unless all Member States subscribe to the principle of solidarity and responsibility and burden sharing. Malta also proposed that asylum and migration policy issues should feature regularly on the agenda of the European Council.

With regard to other themes on the European Council agenda, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke of the importance of the digital economy and the need to tap its full potential. He added that it is important that the Single Market keeps pace with developments of the digital economy with a view to create employment and growth in the EU.

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