Malta Summit Calls For More EU Action As Mediterranean Turns Into A ‘Cemetery’
The leaders of nine Mediterranean and southern European countries met Friday in Malta to discuss EU efforts to tackle the thorny issue of migration at its roots with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The meeting came a day after the bloc failed to agree on changes to the countries’ migration laws. Some 186,000 people have already arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean between January and September 24, with 130,000 of them arriving in Italy.
Effectively addressing illegal migration calls for “a sustained and holistic European response,” the leaders of Slovenia, Portugal, Malta, Italy, Greece, France, Cyprus, Croatia and a representative of Spain said in a joint statement.
Disagreements Over Solutions To Migrant Crisis
A sharp rise in migrants landing on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa earlier this month has reignited tensions. Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, elected the prime minister a year ago on an anti-migrant ticket, has clashed with both France and Germany as she presses for more EU efforts.
After a meeting with von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the summit in Malta, Meloni told media she saw “a will, on paper at least”. It is “something that has to be done on a European level to be really effective,” she insisted.
The continuous arrival of migrants on small boats has put political pressure on the group, which includes Malta, Spain, Slovenia, Portugal, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Greece and France. But even among the nine countries, there are disagreements over solutions to the migrant crisis.
Italy And France Want To Prevent Boats From Departing
So far this year, the number of illegal migrant arrivals in Italy has surpassed 133,000, almost double the number during the same period last year. As thousands slept in Lampedusa’s overwhelmed reception centre two weeks ago, the EC president unveiled a 10-point plan.
Von der Leyen’s plan to help Rome deal with the crisis includes the possible expansion of naval missions in the Mediterranean. Some 90 migrants arrived in three boats on Friday in Lampedusa, the first port of call for many of those crossing from North Africa to Europe.
In an effort to stop illegal migration at source, the leaders of Italy and France also want to prevent boats from departing, by operating more closely with Tunisia, despite questions over the North African country’s human rights standards and treatment of migrants.