IMMIGRATION AND ENERGY HIGH ON THE AGENDA MATTARELLA’S VISIT TO MALTA
Sergio Mattarella’s two day state visit in Malta, initiated with a meeting between him and the President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, during which the Italian President highlighted the special relationship between the two countries that is reflected in various fields.
The issue of immigration in the Mediterranean region was high on the agenda. With Italy facing the biggest burden of immigrants, the President of Malta stressed the need to share the load between all member states of the European Union.
The Maltese President said “Malta stands in full solidarity with Italy to help deal with the current migratory pressure from the central Mediterranean route. Malta believes that relocation remains a key measure in order to alleviate the pressure on front line EU members by sharing the responsibility in dealing with applicants”. President Mattarella stated that Italy and Malta retain the same position on peace and international collaboration demonstrated through the issue of immigration and solidarity with African countries. He praised Malta for respecting the immigration quota as established by the European Union.
However Mattarella warned that although there are other countries that have taken immigrants as decided by the European Union, there are still member states that are not collaborating.
This means that the European Union still has to undertake a lot of work to put solidarity into practice and to truly apportion commitment on all fronts particularly with regards to immigration.
Reference was also made to the situation in Libya. The Italian president said that Italy is appealing to the European Union and the United Nations so that together they work towards reinstating stability in the country and improving the conditions in the refugee camps. During the bilateral meeting between the two presidents the co-operation in the field of energy was mentioned. The President of Malta Marie Louise Coleiro praised the interconnector project between Malta and Sicily through which Malta is buying energy from Italy. She augured that this success will be achieved as works on the natural gas pipeline have commenced. Italy is the largest business partner to Malta as over 3,320 companies holding Italian shares operate on the island. The President of Malta said that this is another confirmation of the partnership between the two countries as she also made reference to the fields of politics, culture and economy.
Leter, the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat paid a courtesy visit to the Italian President Mattarella. During this meeting it was pointed out how the two countries face similar challenges and hold common positions on important issues.
Definitely a common challenge pertaining to both countries is immigration described by the Maltese Prime Minister as not only being a humanitarian matter but also a security concern. It is a global challenge, and not a local one. Both sides referred to the European Court ruling to reject the objections of Hungary and Slovakia for burden-sharing with quotas as a very important political decision.
Prime Minister Muscat stressed the importance of adhering to quotas by all member states whilst President Mattarella commended Malta for taking a decisive role on this issue in the Mediterranean. The situation of Libya was also brought up during the meeting with both sides agreeing that dialogue between all parties concerned has to be strengthened. They emphasised that a relationship between the European Union and the African continent is crucial. The topic of energy connectivity was also discussed with Dr Muscat referring to the gas pipeline from Sicily to Malta linking the two countries. The Maltese Prime Minister also disclosed the Government’s vision to start consultation for the elimination of petrol and diesel operated cars, a commitment that was positively received by the Italian President.
They also discussed the commercial links between Malta and Italy that are leading to benefits for both sides.
President Mattarella said that he is impressed with the results that Malta is gaining in the economic field. Both sides agreed that Europe needs to strengthen its social dimension.
Meanwhile, President Mattarella congratulated Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for the exemplary manner in which Malta led the Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the six months tenure. Mattarella ended this day with a meeting with the outgoing Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil. Dr. Busuttil will end his term this coming Saturday, as the opposition party will be voting for a new leader following last June’s electoral defeat.
The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Italian, Angelo Alfano was present for the meetings.