Migration: Malta, Italy face showdown

Home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici is to face his embattled Italian counterpart Roberto Maroni in Luxembourg today, as tensions between both countries re-emerged over the rescue of asylum seekers in waters between Malta and the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

But as both ministers have plenty to sort out between them over last week’s events, which have once again strained relations between Malta and Italy, Mifsud Bonnici and Maroni desperately need each other to keep up a united front with their hostile European colleagues, who are adamantly objecting to the acceptance of a burden-sharing policy of asylum seekers.

Malta and Italy, who are facing the brunt of an exodus of migrants and asylum seekers from war-torn Libya, and Tunisia, have so far been left alone by Europe.

France and Germany are resisting any attempt to allow migrants to advance into Northern territory, prompting Italy’s Maroni to declare his country’s readiness to withdraw from Frontex.

Despite calls by Malta and Italy to activate the solidarity mechanism that would oblige member states to share the burden of the current migration flows from Libya, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has again argued against the proposal, stating that “the numbers are not yet huge” to merit the activation of the temporary protection directive.

It has been a long and intensive week for Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici.

He has juggled between coping with the arrival of more than 1,000 asylum-seekers from Libya, worked to diffuse tensions with Italy after the capsizing of a migrant boat off Lampedusa, and the subsequent denial for entry into the same island of an Armed Forces patrol boat laden with rescued men and women from a sinking boat.

The otherwise camera-shy minister – who reacted late to the Italian media onslaught – didn’t mince his words to drive his message home: Malta will not be bullied by anyone, let alone a fellow EU member state.

Mifsud Bonnici will meet his Italian counterpart Roberto Maroni in Luxembourg tomorrow, and will have to sort out pending issues that have once again strained the relations between Malta and Italy.

But Mifsud Bonnici and Maroni need each other as they are to insist on having Europe accept the fact that both countries are being left alone to carry the brunt of receiving an exodus of asylum-seekers fleeing war-torn Libya.

Malta and Italy have been engaged in tough back-room negotiations with the EU Commission and individual member states to have the principle of burden sharing accepted.

But these calls are seemingly being ignored by a majority of member states, and this is reflected in the way both the European Commission and the EU border control agency Frontex are responding.

While EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has again argued against the proposal, stating that “the numbers are not yet huge” to merit the activation of a temporary protection directive that invokes extraordinary measures to assist countries facing a migration exodus, MaltaToday has seen official correspondence the Maltese government has received from distant Warsaw, whereby Frontex chief Ilka Laitinen admitted understanding Malta’s preoccupation, but added that the only thing he could assure is to send over a team of experts to assist the authorities.

Tomorrow’s meeting in Luxembourg, however, is expected to see a showdown by Italy, whereby minister Maroni will face a hostile France and Germany who are adamant to close their borders to any migrant influx travelling through Italy.

Maroni – who is now threatening to pull Italy out of Frontex on the basis of its inefficient role in the Lampedusa crisis following an unprecedented influx of 10,000 migrants from Tunisia in one month – is also threatening to resign from his post if his colleagues within the Berlusconi centre-right coalition government do not back him.

But while Laitinen yesterday expressed “appreciation” for Italy’s efforts to address the crisis, Maroni replied that while Europe rightly boasts of its great values, “the principle of solidarity is simply non-existent.”

The Northern League governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia also made himself heard. He stressed his hope that an agreement is reached in Luxembourg tomorrow: “otherwise it would make no more sense to call it Europe anymore.”

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Gunfight at Luxembourg between the bad guy, Sig. Roberto Moroni and the good guy, Minister.Karm Mifsud Bonnici. Sorry to disappiont guys, because Sig.Moroni chickend out and avoided Minister Karm Mifsud Bonnici. It is better if we joined forces and persuade the rest of Europe, to do it's duty towards us and help us cope with this problem.
ITALY and MALTA should not take it at each other but against EU! EU and UN interfered in Libya and Ivory coast in view of humanitarian rights and civilian massacres, thus an estimate cost of the UN military action on Libya by now I estimate its around +/-Eur300 milion and besides to cost of military action in Ivory coast, just this week EU gave eur180mil to Ivory coast to help in resuming their economy! Thus EU refused aids to assist in Migrants/refuges coming to Malta and Italy from Tunisia! Doesn’t these migrants/refuges also have a humanitarian right to LIVE? And where are the EU and UN actions/ funds as used/given in Lybia and Ivory Coast? (a) to safe guard migrants lives ! (b) and assist Malta and Italy with the cost of handling such a situation! Guess these migrants don t have natural resources as the above mentioned countries! And the EU countries involved in lybia and ivory coast have no gains when helping in migrants situation!
We have already been made a carpet. But this is our choice (rather, the government's as it is spineless when it comes to EU relations). We do not even have the mettle to challenge whoever puts us to shame on a worldwide basis - Italian presenter comes to mind: WHAT APOLOGY??!! Plain and simple solution to this crisis - the Italians say they will send the immigrants back by the planeload; we should simply not even contemplate sending out our patrol boats. Better idea comes to mind killing two birds with one stone, let's send them back by the planeload with the government using Air Malta and footing the bill. The government can't then be accused of aiding Air Malta, thus creating unfair competition, right?!! I know this last comment might sound drastic but in this country we live in so much is left to chance, not heeding to negative implications cerrtain actions or lack of bring with them that I see this as the only way out.
Ghalfejn minflok dan il paroli kollu ma TAMMETTUX li din ma hija Ewropa maqghuda XEJN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dawn qatta pajjizi li jigbdu ghal rashom u ma jimpurtahomx minnha!! Dawn jimpurtham biss mill progetti tal miljuni li jkunu mdahhlin fihom. Min nies tal EU dawn ma jimpurtahhomx!!! Ewropa tal qamel u anti-socjali!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Qed tindunaw kemm qabilla Malta tidhol fl-EU issa ja qatta laqhin!!!!!
Resorting to blackmail and threats does not help in sorting the immigration problem. If the Italians wont to play the bullies with us we can resort to similar tactics as well and you do not have to think hard on how to do it.
The fact that we both need each other and need to be on the same side,it does't mean that we keep quite and let ourselves being blackmailed by the Italian government. We have to take a firm stand on this issue. If we don't,we will end up as a carpet with everyone wiping his feet on us.