Following lengthy discussions, European leaders have agreed on significant conclusions which represent another important step in the ongoing process to tackle the challenge of migration.
Faced by recent standoffs in the Mediterranean, the 28 Member States of the European Council have clearly declared that all vessels, operated by nations or organizations, must respect the applicable laws and instructions given by competent authorities. This was not the case in the MV Lifeline situation.
The second significant conclusion was an agreement among all member states on the fact that vessels operating in the Mediterranean must allow the Libyan coastguard to carry out its duties without obstructing its operations. This also was not the case in the MV Lifeline situation.
In a reaction, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat described these conclusions as a proof that all European Union countries agree with Malta’s position. “This is a crucial development which provides a blueprint as to how Europe should proceed,” remarked Dr Muscat.
The Prime Minister stated that the mood within the European Council was positively affected by the diplomatic efforts which Malta successfully led this week whereby, for the first time ever, a humanitarian crisis was addressed, not only by Malta or Italy, but by nine countries who accepted to share responsibility.
“This ad hoc initiative was very clear in the mindset of European leaders who now understood that such a model can effectively succeed,” said Dr Muscat.
Leaders agreed that the European Union must continue to make efforts to rise to the challenge of supporting socio-economic development in Africa. The European Council also agreed to explore the concept of regional disembarkation centres in close co-operation with third countries as well as the UNHCR and IOM.
Dr Muscat concluded by saying that, whilst the agreement of yesterday represents a step forward on several fronts, not least at the operational level, there is still a lot more work that needs to be done in the coming weeks and months.