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Updated | Muscat 'disappointed' by Renzi's resignation, says Malta to follow Frontex migration system

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses social partners ahead of December meeting of EU leaders

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
5 December 2016, 11:16am
First David Cameron, now Matteo Renzi: Malta keeps losing allies important for European Council negotiations
First David Cameron, now Matteo Renzi: Malta keeps losing allies important for European Council negotiations
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has sought to reassure social partners that the announced resignation of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will not affect a migrants "system" which has seen Italy taking in thousands of asylum seekers intercepted at sea.

Addressing a meeting of the MEUSAC Core Group ahead of the December meeting of EU leaders, Muscat said this was not a bilateral agreement with Renzi and therefore it “won’t be affected”.

Italy has been taking in migrants that could have been accepted by Malta since the premiership of Enrico Letta three years ago.

“We will abide by Frontex’s rules of engagement,” Muscat said this morning.

A press officer for the EU’s migration and home affairs had told MaltaToday that the rules on disembarkation of people are laid down in the operational plan of Joint operation Triton, which is hosted by Italy.

The participating units are authorized by Italy to disembark in its territory within the operational area, all persons intercepted and apprehended in its territorial sea as well as in the entire operational area beyond its territorial sea.

“In case of a search and rescue incident in the territorial waters and contiguous zone of Malta or in order to assure the safeguard of the lives of people in distress, the disembarkation could take place in Malta,” the press officer said. “This is in accordance with the provisions of Regulation establishing rules for the surveillance of the external sea borders in the context of operational cooperation coordinated by Frontex.”

With Renzi’s resignation, Muscat has lost a personal friend at the European Council and a close ally in the Mediterranean. Responding to questions by social partners, Muscat refused to speculate on Italy’s future prime minister.

Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement is now well-placed to make a bid for power: Renzi’s defeat could renew electoral momentum.

Muscat noted that a future Italian prime minister would be the fourth premier with whom he would have to negotiate. “The unity between the two countries transcends political differences,” he added.

The Prime Minister, personally close to Renzi, expressed his disappointment over his resignation. "I spoke to him this morning and I believe that he has the energy and is still young enough to return at the highest levels ... but that's up to him to decide."