Updated | Macron and Meloni arrive in Castille for Med9 summit

The Med9 summit is being held in Castille this afternoon, with Mediterranean leaders like Italy’s Meloni and France’s Macron looking to find a common position on migration and other hot topics

Prime Minister Robert Abela greets his Giorgia Meloni (left) and Emmanuel Macron (right). (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Prime Minister Robert Abela greets his Giorgia Meloni (left) and Emmanuel Macron (right). (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Mediterranean leaders are in Valletta this afternoon to negotiate a common position on key European topics for the coming months.

Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and France’s Emmanuel Macron arrived in Valletta on Friday afternoon to kick off working sessions that will see Mediterranean leaders discuss migration, Ukraine, and other issues.

Macron and Meloni are expected to hold a bilateral discussion on the sidelines of the summit mediated by Prime Minister Robert Abela and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Portughese prime minister Antonio Costa gave a statement to the press ahead of the summit, saying that Friday's meeting will help Mediterranean countries prepare for the EU council meeting in Granada on October 6.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. (Photo: James Bianchi / MediaToday)
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. (Photo: James Bianchi / MediaToday)

He said migration is one of the big issues faced by the European Union that will have to be tackled with more solidarity and responsibility within the Union.

Malta also held its own bilateral meeting with Croatia on Thursday night. Abela met with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenkovic for an hour-long meeting, with Malta offering help with Croatia’s recent FATF grey-listing.

The Med9 is high-level summit made up of nine Mediterranean and Southern European member states. These are Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta.

This is the second summit to be held in Malta, but the first to include all nine member states.

At the end of the summit, the heads of state of each country will deliver a statement to the press in Mdina’s Cathedral Square. A joint declaration will also be drafted and shared with the press after a series of working sessions between the member states.

What’s in the joint declaration?

Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday
Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday

The joint declaration is expected to be published later today if all member states agree with the wording and spirit of the statement.

The first paragraph will focus on political affairs south of the Mediterranean. This paragraph should include a paragraph on the relationship between Cyprus and Turkey, but this part is looking to be a sore point on the Cypriot side.

The second paragraph will address Ukraine, and the third will lay out the Mediterranean’s expectations on irregular migration.

Climate change will also feature in the joint declaration, with the Mediterranean being the worst-hit region this year with fatal floodings and wildfires.

Other aspects, including energy, social skills, the EU budget, reform and the Single Market, are expected to be addressed in the joint declaration.

Med9 meeting dominated by migration

The first working session of the summit, to be held behind closed doors, should be dominated by migration.

The summit itself comes hot off the heels of a council meeting between the EU’s home affairs ministers to negotiate a compromise on the crisis regulation of the EU’s migration package.

This regulation had been blocked by the German government, but interior minister Nancy Faeser eventually revealed that they will vote in favour of the deal.

Moreover, Meloni and Macron held talks on Tuesday after the funeral of former president Giorgio Napolitano to exchange views on the need for a European solution to migration.

Two weeks ago, Lampedusa was overwhelmed as thousands of people arrived on its shores within the span of six days. Von der Leyen and Meloni visited a migration reception centre on the island and pledged support to the island, with von der Leyen insisting on a European solution to the migration challenge.

However, France insisted that it will not take in any migrants from Lampedusa and decided to close its border to Italy by boosting border patrol and monitoring the Alps for any crossings.

But in a television interview last Sunday, Macron said that France “cannot leave the Italians alone”, a comment that was welcomed by Meloni.

Mediterranean leaders arrive in Malta. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Mediterranean leaders arrive in Malta. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Meanwhile, two days before the Med9 summit, Meloni wrote to the Med9 states insisting on a common approach to the migration issue. The letter also reportedly refers to the EU-Tunisia memorandum of understanding, which combines migration-tackling proposals with financial and economic support.

The deal with Tunisia was deemed controversial by human rights groups, but is set to be the blueprint for future EU efforts to tackle migration and human trafficking in neighbouring countries.

Ukraine: sanctions and frozen assets

The war in Ukraine should also be on the agenda of the summit, with talks centring around sanctions, the use of frozen Russian assets, and price caps on Russian oil and gas.

A considerable chunk of Russian assets, frozen by sanctions, are sitting idle in Europe, as well as in Japan and the United States. Now, countries are trying to identify ways those assets can be used to help rebuild Ukraine.

The US special envoy for Ukraine’s recovery, who was meeting with EU top brass this week, told reporters on Wednesday that the Russians “ought to be contributing to the recovery of Ukraine” through assets frozen by the West.

Expansion and reformation

Another sensitive topic, on which the Med9 will be trying to form its opinion on today, is reforming the EU to make way for enlargement.

Earlier this month, France and Germany commissioned an expert report on structural reforms that can prepare the EU to welcome new member countries by 2030.

The report put forward radical reforms that include cutting the number of commissioners and MEPs and moving toward majority voting in the European Council.

Enlargement was put on the EU’s priority list after Russia invaded Ukraine. The war-torn country applied for EU membership shortly after the invasion, and was granted EU candidate status in June 2022.

There are seven other countries apart from Ukraine that are candidates to join the EU. These are Turkey, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Moldova, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.