Migration concerns were prioritised as European Council President Charles Michel embarked on a brief state visit to Malta today.
Michel, a former Belgian PM who became the third permanent president of the European Council last year, is also set to pay his respects to Daphne Caruana Galizia at the site of her assassination tomorrow morning and hold a private meeting with her family.
On his arrival to Malta, Michel paid a visit to the Armed Forces of Malta’s Air Wing, with the Department of Information stating that he was briefed on the challenges the armed forces faced due to immigration.
He then moved on to the Auberge de Castille where, flanked by a number of top EU officials, he held bilateral talks with a Maltese government delegation led by Prime Minister Robert Abela.
Again, the DOI emphasised that migration was top of the agenda, mentioning the EU’s new pact on migration and asylum due to be unveiled next week.
The upcoming pact has been kept under tight wraps, though Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas described it earlier this week as a house with three floors, namely an emphasis on agreements with countries of origin and transit, stronger border controls and what Schinas described as a system of “permanent, effective solidarity.”
Such permanent solidarity is set to be controversial, however it may end up manifesting itself. While countries on the EU’s periphery – not least Malta – have long insisted other countries should help, member states with little to gain out of such solidarity may prove reluctant. The so-called Visegrad group – Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – have long opposed any mandatory relocation of asylum seekers.
Receiving funds not enough – Abela
During the meeting, Abela argued that allocating EU funds to Malta was no solution, insisting that there should be burden sharing. He insisted that there should be a permanent mechanism through which asylum seekers could be relocated from member states on the EU’s frontiers.
“The reality we face is that every day, the AFM commander informs us tof a number of boats leaving Libya, each with 90, 100 or 120 people.,” he said.
He lamented that in the absence of proper mechanisms, each case was dealt with ad hoc, as he defended the government’s controversial decision to prevent the Maersk Etienne from disembarking in Malta for 38 days after it rescued a group of 27. He insisted that the impasse would have been solved had every member state accepted to take in a single person.