EU Mediterranean Leaders Meet in Malta 09/29 06:11
The leaders of nine southern European Union countries met in Malta on Friday
to discuss common challenges such as migration, the EU's management of which
has vexed national governments in Europe for years.
VALLETTA, Malta (AP) -- The leaders of nine southern European Union
countries met in Malta on Friday to discuss common challenges such as
migration, the EU's management of which has vexed national governments in
Europe for years.
The nations represented at the one-day huddle included host Malta, France,
Greece, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. Slovenia and
Croatia, with Adriatic Sea coasts, were added to the so-called "Med Group" in
2021. While Portugal has a long Atlantic Ocean border, the European Union
considers it partially in the Mediterranean region.
Two top EU officials -- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
and European Council President Charles Michel -- were invited to the
closed-door meeting. The leaders of the EU's 27 nations have an informal
European Council meeting scheduled for next week in Spain.
The huddle's main aim is to help develop consensus among the members on
major issues concerning all EU countries.
However, unity on migration has been elusive, as witnessed in Brussels
during a Thursday meeting of interior ministers, who are tasked with enforcing
individual nations' rules within the broader contours of EU regulations.
Italy, for example, which now receives by far the largest number of migrants
arriving via the Mediterranean Sea, has pushed in vain for fellow EU nations to
show solidarity by accepting more of the tens of thousands of people who reach
Many of the migrants are rescued by military boats, humanitarian vessels or
merchant ships plying the waters crossed by migrant smugglers' unseaworthy
boats launched from Tunisia, Libya, Turkey and elsewhere. Earlier this month,
some 8,000 migrants stepped ashore on Lampedusa, a tiny Italian fishing island,
in barely 48 hours, overwhelming the tourist destination.
The relentless arrivals, which slow only when seas are rough, have put
political pressure on one of the Malta summit's attendees -- Italian Premier
Giorgia Meloni. She came to power a year ago after campaigning on a pledge to
stop illegal migration, including with a naval blockade, if necessary.
Under current EU rules, the nation where asylum-seekers arrive must shelter
them while their applications are processed. In Italy's case, the majority of
migrants arriving by sea from Africa and Asian countries are fleeing poverty,
not war or persecution, and aren't eligible for asylum.
But because Italy has so few repatriation agreements with home countries, it
is stymied in sending unsuccessful applicants back. Many migrants slip out of
Italy and into northern Europe, their ultimate destination, in hopes of finding
family or work.
Little progress has been made on a new EU pact as the member states bicker
over which country should take charge of migrants when they arrive and whether
other countries should be obligated to help.
Three years after unveiling a plan for sweeping reform of the European
Union's outdated asylum rules, such squabbling fuels doubt as to whether an
overhaul will ever become reality.
While heads of government or state represented most countries at Friday's
summit, Spain sent its acting foreign minister because Acting Prime Minister
Pedro Snchez was involved in discussions at home on forming a new government.
While the talks in Malta were heavily concentrated on migration, other
common challenges, including climate change, economic growth and continued EU
support for Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia's February 2022 invasion
were also on the agenda.