Update 3 | Muscat vows tough stand on migration as Malta and Greece seek common front

Talks between Joseph Muscat and Antonis Samaras focus on migration, Muscat says he will not mince his words during EU summit.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (left)) and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing a joint press conference
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (left)) and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addressing a joint press conference

Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras and Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat have announced they will form a common front on migration in a bid to bring Mediterranean EU member states together on common interests.

Addressing a joint press conference at Castille, Muscat and Samaras insisted that the European Union had to realise that "illegal immigration" was not only the problem of the southern countries but of all of Europe.

"Our borders are Europe's borders and human trafficking is knocking on our doors," the Greek prime minister said.

Despite migration not being on the formal agenda of the European Council meeting next Thursday, Muscat said the issue will be discussed on Friday morning.

Greece and Malta will be pushing for "sharing of responsibilities", rather than burden sharing.

"This meeting will not be about victories but about wordings and conclusions. I will not be happy with a change of word here and there which may not mean anything. We will gauge the actual political willingness to change the status quo," Muscat said.

The Maltese Prime Minister said Greece, Italy and Malta were not after "a quick-fix solution" but the political willingness "behind the words of solidarity which Europe spoke so much about following the recent tragedies".

"I will not mince my words. If I see that it will simply be about talks and no action, I will say so."

Both Prime Ministers avoided however answering which were those member states that would be harder to convince.

One of the proposals to be put forward to the heads of state and government will be "a coherent returns policy".

Muscat explained that as from the next multiannual financial framework, it would be up to Frontex to coordinate flights for those migrants whose asylum request would be rejected and would therefore be repatriated.

"There are means by which Europe can issue travel documents and we want Europe to show to the country of origin that these persons will be repatriated," he said.

Muscat added that these people would be repatriated because their asylum application, after going through the full system, would have failed. 

"We need Europe help to coordinate this operation. There are other proposals and we are offering solutions and a clear plan. I hope that by the end of this week the plan will be taken up by other countries."

Samaras said Malta and Greece will seek to rope in Spain and France, apart from Italy, as member states affected by the migration phenomenon.

Muscat said he looked forward to a Council meeting which would rope in other countries who share Malta's concerns on migration.

"We will continue carrying out our humanitarian duties but we are also guarding European borders. This is a security element which cannot be overlooked," the Maltese PM said.

Muscat and Samaras discussed measures which will be presented to a European platform, including security, sharing of responsibilities and a return policy. Muscat insisted that he was not prepared to take "citizens and migrants" for a ride while insisting he wanted to see concrete positions from the EU.

On his part, the Greek Prime Minister said the threat of human trafficking was destabilising society and has become a "threat to Europe".

Samaras said Greece had taken in over a million migrants over the years of which only 10% had requested protection.

"Europe must take a common position and we must make this plea in an honest manner. Every day human tragedies take place and these do not stop once they are rescued. The other tragedy is being trapped in such terrible conditions, living a life without work. If people truly abhor human trafficking, then they must recognise this problem."

Malta, Greece and Italy are among the Mediterranean countries who are calling for "concrete action" from the EU over migratory pressures. Between 2007 and 2013, Greece received €376 million to manage migratory and asylum flows. On border management funds, Greece received €89 million in border management funds.

The European Commission has urged the EU leaders to show that "EU is based on the principle of solidarity and mutual support".

avatar
do we have a leader of the opposition maltesecross??? The one I know is against all the government is doing It is better for Joseph to find more help from other state members than to ask this leader of the opposition you mentioned
avatar
Common front for all Mediterranean countries must be for pushbacks and repatriation fo all illegal immigrants alraedy here.
avatar
Joseph MELI
I would suggest any talks should be focused on how much Greece has repaid us from our contributions to its bailouts(note plural)and how much remains outstanding and when we may reasonably expect a resolution thereof ?
avatar
It seems it is easier to form a common front with other countries leaders than with the leader of the opposition.