[WATCH] Satisfied but not euphoric, Muscat welcomes EU summit outcome

EU summit entrusts Commission to set timeframes for migration action plan.

(Photo: DOI/ Jeremy Wonnacott)
(Photo: DOI/ Jeremy Wonnacott)

Malta's pressure to have a clear timeframe for the implementation of the 38-point action plan on migration has paid off as EU leaders have agreed that the European Commission should indicate the timeframes for its implementation.

Speaking at the end of the summit, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said: "I am not euphoric, but I'm satisfied that the commission is now responsible for coming up with clear timeframes."

As the European summit came to a close on Friday afternoon, Malta insisted on having clear timelines on the implementation of the action plan, with the repatriation of failed asylum seekers and aid to third countries such as Libya topping Muscat's wishlist.

After discussing migration in the morning session, Malta's demands translated into an agreement between EU leaders on entrusting the European Commission to come up with clear timelines.

"The commission has been given a clear mandate to indicate the timeframes for the implementation of the action plan and I hope that it does this at the earliest," Muscat said.

Asked whether he was hopeful for a quick resolution, Muscat remarked that the commission had set up the task force which made 38 proposals eight weeks after the October council meeting, adding that "that the early signs were encouraging."

Earlier this month, the task force of EU member states identified a slew of actions to address the flow of migration from Africa into Europe, which will include both repatriating failed asylum seekers as well as "outsourcing" the processing of their claims in transit countries.

Yesterday, Muscat said "If the 38 proposals are accepted we need to agree on the timelines and there is resistance to have these included in the commission's conclusions. We need to move from pie in the sky proposals to a clear timeline, with determined actions and timelines."

Asked whether he was happy with the summit's outcome and conclusions, Muscat said: "We have made a big step forward. We have not got there yet but we are edging closer."

He added that his expectations were met, pointing out that the outcome of this week's summit "would not have been possible if Malta and other countries had not taken a firm stand in the October council meeting."

Muscat added that the decision to include "illegal migration" in the common defence and security policy "is equally important as the task force," because the breakthrough means that migration is dealt with on a defence and security level.

In its conclusions, the council meeting agreed to increase the cooperation between the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and member states' security forces "to tackle horizontal issues such as illegal migration, organized crime and terrorism."

As it discussed defence for the first time in five years, the .council also agreed on developing CSDP support for third states and regions to help them improve border management.

Muscat reiterated that up to 1,000 migrants in Malta who have had their asylum claim rejected could be repatriated once the repatriation programme comes into force.

Explaining that Malta's main priorities were discussions with third countries such as Libya and the repatriation of migrants who have had their asylum application rejected, Muscat said that "who does not conform with the law must pay the price."

He said that repatriation depended on two main factors; the logistical aspect of flying rejected asylum seekers to their country of origin with the help of Frontex and the EU issuing documentation for migrants.

The main difficulty, Muscat explained, is the refusal by third countries to issue documentation which would facilitate the repatriation of migrants. He said that Malta was pressing the EU to issue documentation, which would increase the pressure on third countries to accept these migrants back.

Moreover, such countries, mostly African receive aid from the EU and Muscat said that it was completely legitimate to tie aid programmes to the cooperation of third countries over the repatriation of migrants.

Asked whether mandatory burden sharing was still on the cards, Muscat said that Malta would be pushing for changes in the legal framework regulating responsibility sharing in June.

Noting that the previous PN government was responsible for the current reluctance of EU member states to accept mandatory burden sharing, Muscat pointed out that the council's conclusions also make reference to showing appropriate solidarity to all member states under high migration pressure. This, he said, was a clear reference to Malta.

Muscat also announced that Malta obtained a further €8.7 million in funding under two separate initiatives

What are Malta's 'red lines' regarding the banking union? The PM thought them irrelevant enough to spare us the details and no one bothered to ask. Clearly, the journos haven't really grasped the copy/paste jobs they've been feeding us, but surely, given that we are forced to pour borrowed money into the ESM, its new role in bailing out collapsed banks deserves a mention.
What a difference a leader makes! One trumpets victory when in reality it was ' burden sharing' dumped on us; the new leader works a lot, says little and makes things happen! Finally perhaps the Maltese will realise that a party in power for more than 10 years is too much of a heavy weight to carry! Congratulations to our Prime Minister.