Nathalie Loiseu: 'Malta is not alone anymore'

At a public consultation titled Have your Say on Europe, Maltese ministers Helena Dalli and Michael Farrugia and French Minister for European Affairs opened the floor to the general public to voice their concerns on Europe, immigration and integration

French Minister for European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, said that Malta experienced immigration very early on, since 2002, before immigration was even on the European agenda. “Malta is not alone anymore,” she said.

Loiseau was speaking at a public consultation at St Paul's Bay hosted by Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC). She contended that immigration is the greatest challenge that is presently facing the EU.

She praised Malta for being committed to tackle this issue since the beginning and was glad that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and French President Emanuel Macron got together in an attempt to improve the lives of the citizens—irrespective of who they are—across the continent.

Partit Demokratiku Secretary General, Martin Cauchi Inglott, was one of those amongst the audience who disagreed. ‘We are still very much alone," he said. He asked whether it’s time for the EU to get its act together and unite with Libya to develop a strategy for migration. “After all, it’s about saving lives,” he said.

Loiseau responded by saying that a real state in Libya needed to be built. "We cannot complain about trafficking and organised crime unless there is a state there," she said, "but efforts are being made to quell the resistance."

French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau
French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau

Minister for Home Affairs Michael Farrugia said that since the problem didn’t concern the EU back in 2002, Malta took all the burden of immigrants along with Italy. “In 2015, Europe experienced a reality check,” he said. “NATO ships, Operation Sofia—a naval force with the aim of neutralising smuggling routes—were active for a while. Then we had an ad-hoc situation: Lifeline, Aquarius I and Aquarius II.”

Farrugia was referring to the NGO vessels that were recently making the rounds in the Mediterranean, unofficial squads that were saving lives. “We need a tangible solution, though,” he said, “something designed at the highest level in the EU.”

The minister said he’s not happy with many EU countries who were unwilling to help because immigration was not a problem they were facing. Mediterranean countries like Spain, France, Cyprus and Greece were very willing to share ideas but they were isolated in their willingness. “Yes, this is an issue of saving lives,” he said, “so while we welcome migrants to come through the normal channels, we give priority to asylum seekers.”

European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli was more optimistic and said that while Malta was a country which over the past decade was alone in dealing with regular immigration, it is now playing a key role in effecting a European response.

The public consultation took place in the light of a Migrant Integration Strategy and Action Plan published by the Ministry of European Affairs. Dalli called it a ‘tool that provides direction.’