Muscat meets Gentiloni in final stop of six-European-capital tour

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has met Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the last leg of a tour of six European capitals

Joseph Muscat ended his six-country tour by meeting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
Joseph Muscat ended his six-country tour by meeting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has ended his whirlwind tour of six European capitals today in Rome, with a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni.

Following their talk, the Prime Ministers addressed a press conference, addressing issues such as the Italian employment and the Italy-Libya migrant deal.

Gentiloni stressed the need for a European framework to assist in creating new jobs. On his part, Muscat hailed the recent migrant deal as "the highest point reached by EU migrant policy.”

Earlier today, Muscat met Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia. Their discussion revolved around the situation in Cyprus, immigration, Brexit and the future of the European Union.

Anastasiades applauded Malta for its presidency of the Council of the European Union, and said that it was important that Malta was prioritising the realities of he Mediterranean.

Muscat set off on the tour on Tuesday, arriving in Stockholm for discussions with his Swedish counterpart, Stefan Lofven.

The two discussed the European Union’s social agenda, the progress of the Maltese presidency of the Council of the EU, Brexit and illegal immigration.

In a press conference at the end of their talks, Lofven praised the progress of Malta’s EU presidency and said his country agreed with Malta’s decision to focus on immigration issues and its call for a more social Europe.

Muscat bemoaned the fact that the EU remained divided on immigration, but acknowledged that at least some small progress had been made.

Earlier that day, Muscat had accompanied Lofven during a ceremony commemorating former Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, who was assassinated in 1986.

After Sweden, Muscat met Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka in Prague where the two discussed the future of “social Europe” as Muscat noted the similarities between the two countries, including low rates of unemployment.

On his part, Sobotka underlined Muscat’s important role in the discussions EU leaders had in Malta last month which led to an agreement on what the government statement described as “illegal immigration.” 

Highlighting the divergences between member states on the relocation of asylum seekers, Sobotka called for a “European solution.”

On Wednesday, Muscat met Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest, Romania. The discussion between the two leaders focused on Brexit, EU funds and the presidency of the EU Council, in preparation for Romania’s stint in 2019. Muscat and Iohannis agreed that Europe must face its future with an approach based on unity and solidarity, while respecting the multi-speed union.

While Iohannis praised Malta’s priority for its presidency of the EU Council, Muscat said that the migration agreement reached in the summit held in Malta was important, but that it would be beneficial to start internal EU discussions on the issue.

Later in the day, Muscat visited Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens. The two Prime Ministers discussed, among other subjects, the need for a more social Europe that prioritises economic growth and employment.

Muscat stressed that the “social pillar” must be given more importance on a European level and that Malta, together with other like-minded countries, will continue pushing for the issue to be an “integral part of the European Union’s success.”

The two leaders also discussed the importance of the Mediterranean as well as migration, where they agreed that despite there still being a lot more to do, the EU had registered some progress.
This is the second such tour for Muscat, who had visited seven countries in four days in December before Malta took over the presidency of the EU Council.

These visits will pave the way for a two-day summit of the European Council, to be held in Brussels on 9 and 10 March, where EU leaders are scheduled to continue discussing migration, security and the bloc’s economy. They will also be electing a new President for the European Council, to replace Donald Tusk and to serve from June 2017 to November 2019.

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