Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi participated in the informal meeting of EU European Affairs Ministers during a videoconference.
During his speech, he referred to two particular examples where unilateral actions taken by member states undermine the true values and solidarity principles of the European Union.
The first example is the fact that the European Union is the perpetual delay in holistically reforming an inadequate asylum legislative framework, in particular, the Dublin Regulation. In addition, there are the unfulfilled relocation pledges and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya which mean that the frontline member states continue bearing the brunt of the situation. The status quo is unacceptable and has become untenable. The restoration of the fully functional Schengen area is essential.
Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi stated that the pandemic has made it more evident that there still remain obstacles which hinder the functionality of a fully-fledged Single Market. The free flow of goods is still being hindered by some member states in taking unilateral decisions without considering the needs and circumstances of other EU countries especially those on the periphery. It is important that the EU incentivises and boosts its internal production of essential products as soon as possible.
Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi also referred to the current COVID-19 situation and mentioned that the top priorities for the Maltese Government were public health and saving lives. In parallel, the government has been vigilant in introducing containment measures to mitigate the damages brought about on the economy with the main aim of retaining as much as possible our workforce.
The parliamentary secretary emphasised that a recovery for the European Union must be based on solidarity, fundamental rights and values and a deep sense of collective fair sharing of responsibility. A key principle in all this cooperation with third countries and Malta has put forward concrete proposals to stabilise Libya. There is an urgent need for European solidarity so that the migratory burden is shared equally. There is also the necessity of a fundamental reform to build an EU system where member states tackle asylum policy challenges together.
With regards to an exit strategy from the current COVID-19 crisis, Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi said that this must be based on science, with gradual and well-coordinated measures implemented. Member states should share information on the effects of mitigation measures as all of them stand to learn from the experiences of each other.
On the economic recovery prospects, Dr Zrinzo Azzopardi said that recovery must remain in touch with the reality on the ground without undermining the competitive edge of the EU’s economic base with third countries. He emphasised that for its economy to recover, Europe must not adopt measures of austerity but promote economic growth.