[WATCH] EU Council far from a breakthrough on migration – Joseph Muscat

The Prime Minister said that while solidarity remained voluntary under the latest agreement, the last week’s events had shown that Europe can work together to tackle migration

French President Emmanuel Macron with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat
French President Emmanuel Macron with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that the EU Council was far from a breakthrough on migration, but said that the last week’s events had shown that member states can work together on migration.

Muscat was speaking at the EU Council summit, currently underway in Brussels. An agreement on the summit’s conclusions was reached following lengthy talks, which ran into the early hours of the morning.

“I don’t think it was a breakthrough agreement but another step in a long walk that has been going on for years,” Muscat said after the first day.

He said that what was significant for Malta was the fact that 28 member states had agreed on two points: that all ships working in the Mediterranean must abide by international rules and that rescue vessels must allow the Libyan coast guard do its job.

This, he said, was a clear reference to the case of the MV Lifeline, which refused to let the coast guard take the migrants it had rescued.

READ ALSO: EU leaders reach crunch migrant deal but for many this is a bad case of déjà vu

“All the European Union countries are agreeing with Malta’s position and I think this is a crucial point that gives us a blueprint for the future,” Muscat said. 

Other factors, such as the fact that solidarity among member states was voluntary, remained the same, the Prime Minister said.

He noted however that the week’s events, which saw Malta take a lead in resolving a situation that was not brought about by any single member state, through a collective effort.

“This ad hoc initiative was very clear in the mindset of European leaders who now understand that such a model can effectively work,” he said, adding that the council was very far from other breakthroughs, “especially the reform of the Dublin regulations”.

READ ALSO: PN says EU summit agreement ignores problems faced by Malta on migration

Reacting to the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk said it was "far too early to talk about a success".

"We have managed to reach an agreement in the European Council. But this is in fact the easiest part of the task, compared to what awaits us on the ground, when we start implementing it," Tusk said.

He said European leaders had accepted three proposals put forward by himself including for disembarkation platforms to be set up outside of Europe, to have a dedicated budgetary tool to combat illegal migration, as well as boosting EU support for the Libyan Coast Guard.

"On top of that, we have sent a clear message to all vessels including those of NGOs operating in the Mediterranean, that they must respect the law and must not obstruct the operation of the Libyan Coast Guard," he said, adding that this demonstrated the EU's "clear and univocal support for the actions of the Maltese authorities".

He said that another part of the compromise was the Franco-Italian proposal of controlled centres on EU territory, in countries that are willing to build them.

"All the measures in the context of these centres, including relocation and resettlement, will be takene on a voluntary basis," he said. 

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