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Muscat’s ‘wall’ on migration: 8 key takeaways from his speech to MEPs

The former MEP left Brussels to become Labour leader in 2008. Now he addresses the plenary again as Prime Minister as Malta takes the helm of the EU presidency

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
19 January 2017, 7:50am
Joseph Muscat addressed MEPs on the start of Malta's EU presidency
Joseph Muscat addressed MEPs on the start of Malta's EU presidency
1. The EU deserted Malta on migration issues since 2004. Now it expects it to conform to its agenda on migration after agreeing to take in just over 160 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece…

"The smallest Member State, which over the years – bar the last few – has suffered first-hand the brunt of the human plight of migration with no or little help, signed up to take asylum seekers from other Member States who are facing a crisis.  To me, that is more than enough to assert that our European and human values are indisputable."

2. Let’s ‘wall’ – as Joseph Muscat seems to suggest. Sure it’s not perfect, but ‘it will make the difference’

"To wall or not to wall.  At the end, the only way in which the flow was stemmed was through an agreement with Turkey.  We all know it is not the perfect deal, and that it is not a long term solution, but we have to admit that this is what until now has made some difference."

One of the refugee camps in Turkey
One of the refugee camps in Turkey
3. Muscat wants to pay Libya to keep refugees from making the Mediterranean crossing: if the influx increases, electorates will demand closed borders

"In my mind there is no doubt that unless the essence of the Turkey deal is replicated in the central Mediterranean, Europe will face a major migration crisis.  Let me not mince my words.  I see no way in which one single Member State can manage or absorb this further wave.  Thus, the essence of the core principles of the European Union will be seriously tested unless we act now."

4. After paying Libya to stop the boats, the EU can start processing asylum seekers in ‘humanitarian corridors’… probably inside Libya

"Let me also be very clear in what I mean by replication of the essence of the Turkey deal.  I mean, most importantly, breaking the business model of the criminal gangs raking millions of euros out of this inhumane business.  I do believe that a strong political message is necessary at this point.  And I say that if we manage to get such an agreement, we should then, as the European Union, organise humanitarian safe passages and corridors, that would get recognised asylum seekers to Europe safely."

Stopping migrants leaving Libya would mean paying the country to stop the boats from leaving. (Photo: MSF)
Stopping migrants leaving Libya would mean paying the country to stop the boats from leaving. (Photo: MSF)
5. Ignore the border solution at your peril: the far-right will move in where EU leaders today won’t go

"I have no doubt that unless we are ready to take such bold moves, we would be made to take even-bolder ones in the months to come, and these decisions would be led by people who do not have progress of the European project at heart."

Agents of mistrust: the far-right figureheads of Europe: Lega Nord’s Matteo Salvini, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party member Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front political party head, Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders and Belgium’s Flemish Bloc member Gerolf Annemans
Agents of mistrust: the far-right figureheads of Europe: Lega Nord’s Matteo Salvini, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party member Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen, France’s National Front political party head, Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders and Belgium’s Flemish Bloc member Gerolf Annemans
6. Muscat enjoys a historical occasion as the leader of a former British colony to show the UK the door… 

"It is quite a historic irony for a country that has been a British colony for two centuries, and which currently also presides the Commonwealth, to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time of the triggering of the process by means of which the United Kingdom will, unfortunately, cease to be a member of the European Union which it supported us to join."

7. The UK can forget any single market access since it wants to pull up the drawbridge

Doom and gloom for Theresa May
Doom and gloom for Theresa May
"Put simply, the four freedoms are indivisible.  Indeed, the fact that the British Prime Minister declared that she will take her country out of the Single Market because of the political choice to limit freedom of movement of persons, confirms the position of the EU27, that the four freedoms are one package." 

Calm down... it's a parody account

8. Jobs are what Europeans care about the most

"We are proud to put Social Europe back on the agenda, in sync with the Commission’s recent work.  I strongly believe that matching this dimension with policies conducive to economic growth and more and better jobs, can help provide a guiding light not only to our people, but also to the global community that is looking desperately for progressive leadership."

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.