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Updated | Muscat refutes criticism on EU-Libya migrant deal: ‘There is no perfect solution’

Unless the essence of the EU-Turkey deal is replicated in the central Mediterranean, then Europe will face another migration crisis, Joseph Muscat tells MEPs

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
18 January 2017, 9:44am
Last updated on 18 January 2017, 1:27pm
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg, Muscat warned that the 2015 refugee crisis had caught Europe off guard
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg, Muscat warned that the 2015 refugee crisis had caught Europe off guard
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat brushed off humanitarian criticism of his call for the EU to reach a deal with Libya to stem the flow of irregular migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

“If the EU keeps waiting for a total and perfect solution, it will be condemned to go round in circles and stay in the same rut,” he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “While we may have ideological and moral differences on the way we approach migration, my point goes beyond that. That’s all in the long-term, and in the long-term we’ll all be dead.

“This is the last train we can catch to do something structured regarding the collective handling of the migration crisis. Throwing money at the problem will not solve anything, and thinking it will is delusional.”

In its political memo to EU home affairs ministers, Malta has proposed placing European coast guard patrols just outside the extensive Libyan coast, in joint patrols with Libyan counterparts, who will then take intercepted migrant boats back to Libyan shores.

However, it was sharply criticised by Green MEP Philippe Lamberts, who questioned how Muscat hopes to reach a deal with Libya when it is still run by two bellicose and rival governments.

“This is not in line with European values,” he warned.

Responding to this criticism, Muscat reiterated that if Europe doesn’t engage with North African countries, it will simply invite more trouble in the near future.

“There will be no perfect solution, and we need operational solutons.”

Earlier, Muscat warned that the 2015 refugee crisis had caught Europe off guard and that the EU must reach a deal with North African countries before next spring.

“The EU-Turkey deal may not be a perfect deal and is not a long-term solution, but it has made a difference,” he said, referring to the EU’s deal with Turkey to stem flows of migrants to Europe. “Europe cannot be caught in this conundrum once again. Next spring, Europe will face a new heavy influx of migrants through the central Mediterranean. The reasons why these people undergo these risky voyages are way different from those leading Syrian refugees to cross the Aegean Sea.

“There is no doubt that unless the essence of the EU-Turkey deal is replicated in the central Mediterranean, then Europe will face another crisis.”

He sounded a warning to the EU that if it doesn’t take bold action now, then it will risk handing the reins of political responsibility euroskeptic parties in the near future.

He added that once such a deal is implemented, then the EU can start organising humanitarian safe passages and corridors that will allow legitimate asylum seekers to reach Europe.

“I will not mince my words, no single member state can absorb this single wave. The essence of the core European principles will be seriously tested unless we act now.”

Muscat attempted to use Malta as an example on solidarity on migrant relocation, in that it has agreed to take in 131 migrants from Italy and Greece under an EU system.

“Malta had been left almost alone for many years, trying to overcome a migration crisis that was not our making. The only solution we were given was some more money,” he said. “When the EU Council proposed the relocation system, some voices back home told me to stand back, arguing that no one had helped us when we needed help.

“It would have been a very popular stand with the silent majority, yet we opted to do just the opposite because we know that this is an issue of precedence and credibility. Solidarity is not a la carte to be used when we need it and turn a blind eye when others need it, but is an essential a European value at the core of what the founding fathers envisaged 60 years ago,” he said to claps.