Update 2 | Malta, Italy sign memorandum of understanding

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi starts Malta visit

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi (left) exchanges the MOU with Maltese foreign minister Tonio Borg (Photo: Pierre Sultana/DOI)
Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi (left) exchanges the MOU with Maltese foreign minister Tonio Borg (Photo: Pierre Sultana/DOI)

Malta and Italy today signed a memorandum of understanding that provides a modus operandi for both countries on issues such as the continental shelf dispute, oil exploration and migration.

Foreign minister Tonio Borg said his meeting with Italian counterpart Giulio Terzi had been eventful on both ministerial and technical level, discussing among other things "the nitty-gritty" of migration issues and how to draft in neighbouring countries to assist the two countries.

On his part, Terzi said Italy was committed to respect the international rule of law and human rights in framework agreements it had signed with Libya on the issue of migration and the rescue of asylum seekers at sea.

Borg would not reveal details on the matter of the continental shelf dispute, but said the two sides were discussing the issue "without trespassing the jurisdiction of the countries".

The complex territorial dispute with Libya, which also involves Italy, centres around the Medina Bank, which Malta insists forms part of its continental shelf. In 1985, the International Court of Justice settled the dispute over a fraction of the site - in Libya's favour - but the matter is far from being resolved. Malta is hoping that negotiations will settle the matter.

Terzi on his part augured for the meetings to be able to provide a satisfactory conclusion. "I see this as a point of arrival, not of departure," the Italian foreign minister said, saying the two sides were finding ways for concrete cooperation.

Terzi also welcomed news that Germany's constitutional courts had rejected calls to block the permanent eurozone rescue fund - the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) - and the European fiscal treaty. "It will send a message of trust to the international markets. It is a significant step forward," Terzi said.

Some 37,000 people had signed a petition to the German court asking it to block the ESM, and make it subject to a referendum. Since Germany is due to contribute 27% of the fund, it cannot proceed without German ratification.

But, after weeks of deliberation, the court's Chief Justice Andreas Vosskuhle said it "rejected the injunctions", since there was a "high probability" that the ESM did not violate the constitution.

Terzi kicked off his visit to Malta today with a meeting with his counterpart Tonio Borg at Palazzo Parisio, where the two ministers will be discussing immigration, energy, as well as the upcoming agenda for the 5 5 meeting for Mediterranean states.

Borg reminded Terzi of the importance of Maltese-Italian relations, bonded by the proximity of a shared history and culture. "One does not choose one's neighbours, and we have an obligation to maintain good relations... Italy has been especially helpful with a history of financial protocols that aided Maltese economic development and also in Malta's accession to the European Union," Borg said.

A commission will also be set up on the issue of migration and the rescue of asylum seekers who cross the Mediterranean in a bid to reach Europe. The agreement is expected to include the setting-up of a commission that will hold discussions on not just migration, but also oil exploration, between government experts.

In a meeting with the Prime Minister, Terzi was reminded by Lawrence Gonzi of the opportunities and challenges in post-war Libya, which will be discuss in the upcoming 5 5 meeting in Malta. "I hope this will be an occasion to look forward," Gonzi said, also referring to the Benghazi rocket attack that killed a US embassy official. "I hope these kinds of attacks do not repeat themselves in Libya."

Terzi told Gonzi that Italy and Malta shared a common vision for the Mediterranean, and conveyed Italian premier Mario Monti's best wishes.


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