The European Union needs to urgently increase its efforts in the field of return and re-admission of immigrants who are not entitled to international protection, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela told his EU counterparts at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) meeting in Luxembourg. Furthermore, the increasing number of migrants sailing towards European shores through the Central Mediterranean route shows the need for this route to continue being tackled holistically, he said. Minister Abela suggested a bigger involvement by Tunisia as a partner in this process, as well as further assistance to Libyans as they strive to address their domestic challenges in a bid to achieve stability once again.
The Minister welcomed the Fourth Progress Report on the Partnership Framework with third countries, one year after its inception, as well as the positive results achieved so far, especially in combating smuggling and trafficking.
This was the first FAC that Minister Abela participated in since taking up duties as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion. It was also the last one of this configuration to be held under the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, before Estonia takes over on the 1st of July.
The meeting’s agenda was an intensive one that focused on topical issues, including migration and counterterrorism. The foreign ministers adopted Council Conclusions on counterterrorism, another tangible result of the work undertaken by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini with the full support of the Maltese Presidency.
The meeting began with a discussion on the implementation of the EU Global Strategy, following the publication of the first progress report, which examines in great detail the achievements of the Strategy one year after its launch. The foreign ministers welcomed the progress and results achieved so far, and expressed the importance of continuing to work towards the full implementation of the strategy in all its areas.
EU-NATO Cooperation was also on the agenda, during which Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller joined the ministers. Together they agreed on the need for increased cooperation between the EU and NATO to guarantee security within European borders, as no country or institution can do this on its own. The ministers also discussed the situation in Iraq and the latest developments in the Gulf crisis.
After the Foreign Affairs Council, Minister Abela attended the Eastern Partnership Ministerial meeting. This was an opportunity for EU foreign ministers and their Eastern Partnership counterparts to discuss the preparations and deliverables of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit that will be held in Brussels on 24 November 2017.
On the margins of the FAC, Minister Abela held a bilateral meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The two ministers discussed issues of bilateral and multilateral issues such as the future of the Commonwealth and the potential effects of Brexit. Boris Johnson commended Malta for managing to keep EU member states on the same page in what has been a tough time for the bloc.