medNews

U.S. concerned as Haftar consolidates power in Libya backed by Russia

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The Haftar family is consolidating its power in eastern Libyan, as the strongman Khalifa Haftar has named his son, Saddam Haftar, as the new chief of the Haftar-controlled Libyan Arab Armed Forces. Two other Haftar sons also have military posts.

In view of the latest developments, the rival western government in Tripoli is under pressure about the rise of this private family army in the east and who control eastern and parts of southern Libya.

In 2019, Haftar tried to take Tripoli. He failed and while he has lost some of his backers, including the U.S., he is a top priority on Russia’s list, and a key stomping ground for Wagner mercenaries and operations that extend beyond Libya.

Recently the Italian law enforcement carried out the operation at the request of the United States authorities and seized weapons worth millions of dollars allegedly bound for Benghazi in Libya. The large merchant vessel MSC Arina departed from Yantian, a port district in Shenzhen, China on April 30. US authorities decided to seize the arms shipment and requested Italian intervention upon its arrival in the southern port of Gioia Tauro, in Calabria. The cargo ship was destined for forces loyal to Russia-backed warlord Khalifa Haftar. The specific military equipment on board remains unclear, but some analysts suggest it could include armed drones.

The recent event underscores the growing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and Russia. Washington has been closely monitoring Haftar since his visit to Moscow in September. US intelligence officials suspect that the Kremlin wants to build its military port in Tobruk, which is controlled by Haftar in Libya.

The US is keen to prevent Russian expansion in the Mediterranean, especially in Libya, which has strategic importance due to its proximity to Europe and its resources. Russia’s potential establishment of a military base in Tobruk would significantly enhance its influence in North Africa and the Mediterranean.

A Russian military presence in Libya would also be a direct security concern for the EU, particularly given its proximity to the EU’s southern borders. This would not only disrupt the balance of power in the region but could also affect EU interests, including migration routes and energy supplies.

Meanwhile, the US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller expressed concern about Russian naval missions delivering military equipment to Libya.

On June 18, the General Command of the Libyan National Army (LNA) announced the arrival of two Russian warships at the Tobruk naval base for a “working visit.” The ships, the missile cruiser “Varyag” and the frigate “Admiral Shaposhnikov,” are intended to enhance cooperation and coordination between the Libyan and Russian navies. This visit aims to improve training, maintenance, technical and logistical support, and maritime security expertise.

The US State Department has expressed its concerns about recent reports that naval vessels belonging to Russia were unloading military equipment in Libya, considering that Moscow was seeking to use Libya as a base to destabilize the Sahel region.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told Al Hurra TV on Friday that the Russian move “comes five years after the deployment of Russian mercenaries who destabilized Libya and the region.” Miller said that Moscow “did not hide its ambition to deepen its foothold in Libya and use it as a base to further destabilize the Sahel region,” noting that there are approximately 1,800 members of a Kremlin-backed force currently in Libya. “The US will continue to respect Libyan sovereignty and the dialogue facilitated by the United Nations with the aim of unifying the country through political means only.” He added.

Libya has been a focal point of international conflict and intervention since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. The country has since been divided between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different foreign powers.(ITALPRESS).

Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma


Source: medNews

OSCE, Maltese initiative for young diplomats to combat climate change

Malta launched a new initiative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) with the aim of strengthening the participation of young people in the discussions and decisions taken by the politicians to address climate change.

During a conference on climate change, 

the Chairperson of the OSCE, the Minister for European Foreign Affairs and Trade Ian Borg, stressed that the urgency to take immediate action has never been so great.

The conference was held in Malta, which is currently in charge of leading the OSCE, the largest security organization in Europe

Malta launched the new initiative with the aim of strengthening the participation of young diplomats and technical experts in the discussions and political decisions that are being taken on climate change.

The initiative was brought by the Permanent Representation of Malta to the OSCE to the representatives of the 57 countries within this Organization, during a high-level conference of the Maltese Presidency of the OSCE on Climate Change.

The Special Representative for the Maltese Leadership of the OSCE on Climate Change, Ambassador Simone Borg, said that this initiative will help to train new diplomats with aspects that deal with climate change, about energy, water and the impact on nature. The fight against climate change requires diplomats who can steer agreements in the direction that make a difference. Training will also be given to young people in areas such as transport and agriculture who will train and learn how to address emissions from their sector.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chairperson of the OSCE Ian Borg said that the conference was being held at a time when the Mediterranean region is facing challenges linked to climate change, including heat waves, droughts and floods.

He described the launch of the initiative as significant to have officials, especially young people, who meet and train so that even in embassies, in international organizations each country has those experts which can lead to solutions.

The Minister for the Environment Miriam Dalli said governments should incentivize new technologies to push forward measures to combat climate change. She said that climate change was becoming more of a threat and extreme weather is intensifying, with great risks for people. Dalli emphasized the importance of research and said that in Malta researchers were coming up with innovative ideas that can be implemented in Malta.


Source: medNews

Tunisia intercepted over 1,800 migrants

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The international NGO Alarm Phone said that 65 migrants are at risk in the central Mediterranean. The NGO added it is in contact with a group of about 65 people who escaped from Libya and are in severe distress. Alarm Phone confirmed that the authorities are informed and urged for an immediate rescue.
Meanwhile, another humanitarian NGO, Sea-Watch International said that after
Tuesday’s brutal beatings of migrants who escaped from Libya and were trying to reach Italy, the Libyan coastguard abducted more migrants in international waters again yesterday, risking their lives. Following this notification, the crew of Humanity 1 operated by the NGO SOS Humanity witnessed three cases of refugees being intercepted and illegally forced back to Libya.
In another development, SOS Humanity rescued two boats full of migrants in distress. The crew of Humanity 1 rescued 31 people from an unseaworthy fibreglass boat in distress. None of those on board were wearing lifejackets. The boat was spotted by the crew’s lookout using binoculars and had departed from Libya. Following this rescue, the same crew rescued a further 75 people, including women and children, from an overcrowded wooden boat in distress in international waters. There was no lifesaving equipment on board and the boat was unseaworthy.
Meanwhile, Tunisia intercepted more than 1,800 migrants, thwarting 59 attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, during last weekend. There were 18 Tunisian citizens among those who tried to set out on the journey, the National Guard confirmed. Two bodies were recovered, while 24 smugglers, including organisers and mediators, were held. The Tunisian authorities said security forces prevented more than 30,000 people from crossing to Europe through Tunisiàs territorial waters in the first five months of 2024

– Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma –

(ITALPRESS).


Source: medNews

Malta, people feel “very uncomfortable” with multiculturalism

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – According to the latest edition of the State of the Nation survey commissioned by the Office of the President of Malta, over one in every four people say they feel “very uncomfortable” with Maltàs multiculturalism. A further 10% say they are uncomfortable, with a third saying that they are undecided about this issue.
The survey found that the Maltese are less comfortable with multiculturalism than they were in most previous years.
People across all age groups tend to feel the same way about the issue, although people between the ages of 26 and 35 tended to view multiculturalism slightly more favourably.
However, the survey found that most (55%) agreed that importing foreign workers to carry out jobs the Maltese don’t want to do is a good solution. Higher-income earners in particular, were overwhelmingly in favour of this solution.
The survey reflects Maltàs mixed reaction to the country’s changing demographics, with 2021’s census finding that more than one in every five people living in Malta is not Maltese.
Prime Minister Robert Abela was speaking at the closing of the presentation of the fourth annual State of the Nation survey admitted that people want the Maltese government to move “at a quicker pace” towards an economic model that improves their quality of life and away from one focused just on economic growth. Abela acknowledged that Maltàs economic growth had introduced new challenges, particularly in terms of pressure on Maltàs infrastructure and demographics, that need to be prioritised. Abela pledged to look towards strengthening economic areas that “least impact our country’s infrastructure”, going on to list several possible niches, from robotics to artificial intelligence, digital economy, financial services and gaming.
The conference was also addressed by PN MP Claudette Buttigieg, who spoke on behalf of Opposition leader Bernard Grech.
Buttigieg said that last week’s MEPs election result sent “a strong message” about several issues, including the fact that “we need to look at Maltàs economic model through a different lens”. “This is an issue that PN has long been saying, one that needs attention,” she said.
Closing the conference, President Myriam Spiteri Debono expressed her concern at the survey’s findings about multiculturalism and foreign workers. “Maybe we should ask the Maltese who don’t want foreign workers point-blank whether they are ready to carry out the work they do,” she said. ”
They feel that some work is below them but they expect these jobs to still be done,” she insisted.

– Foto: DOI –

(ITALPRESS).


Source: medNews

Migrants beaten during a push back operation towards Libya

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – The NGO Sea-Watch International has published a video of the Libyan coastguard brutally pulling back approximately 60 migrants to “horrific conditions” in Libya.
The NGO confirmed that the incident happened last Tuesday as a boat full of migrants was sinking. It also accused the captain and the crew of the vessel of being complicit and responsible “for this crime”.
According to the video, the captain of the vessel is heard informing Sea-Watch International of risking being arrested together with his crew, if he ignores the orders issued by the Libyan coastguards, and therefore he should resume with the handing over of the saved migrants.
The video also shows migrants being beaten by the Libyan coastguard using wooden bats during their transfer to the Libyan coastguard vessel recently gifted by the Italian government.
Sea-Watch International warned the captain that Libya is not considered as a place of safety.
Meanwhile, over the weekend of 7th-8th June 2024, at least 17 bodies were spotted floating at sea. Twelve of them were retrieved by civil search and rescue ships Geo Barents and Ocean Viking. The deaths indicate a shipwreck in which an unclear number of people have died.
The bodies were discovered during a monitoring flight by Sea-Watch. “We spotted even more bodies, which are still at sea”, says Tamino Bòhm, who was part of the monitoring team that discovered the dead. “These deaths were not an unforeseeable accident, but the result of calculated political decisions by the European Union: this is what the European border policy looks like.” The fact that the bodies have remained undiscovered for more than a week shows once again how necessary civilian monitoring is in the Mediterranean. However, human rights monitoring over the Mediterranean is under threat: the Italian aviation authority ENAC is currently trying to ban Sea-Watch’s monitoring flights. “If this attempt is successful, there will be no more witnesses of such deaths,” says Bòhm.
It was the civilian organisations MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE that recovered the bodies from the sea. “Had it not been for civilian Search and Rescue ships and aircraft, this recent tragedy would have likely been one of many invisible shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. We know that more bodies were spotted at sea, which we were not able to recover. We will never know their identity, nor how many people died in this shipwreck,” says Soazic Dupuy, Director of Operations of SOS MEDITERRANEE. “Humanitarian Search and Rescue fills a deadly blind spot in the Mediterranean – the obstruction and criminalisation of our vital work must end.”
“We have received requests from families reporting they had lost contact with their loved ones who had taken the sea. We call on the Italian authorities to immediately put into action and apply the proper forensic mechanisms to capture and document DNA profiles of people who lost their lives”, said Juan Matias Gil, MSF Search and Rescue representative. “Proper identification of the victims is our duty to help families have answers about the disappearance of their loved ones”.

– Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma –

(ITALPRESS).


Source: medNews

European Commission warns Malta over its excessive budget deficit

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – Malta has been formally warned by the European Commission over its excessive budget deficit.
The European Commission also reiterated its call for Malta to end its energy subsidies as well as take other measures to tackle a severe shortage and mismatch of skills, ease traffic congestion and increase renewable energy.
Warnings over budget deficits were also issued against Belgium, France, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Romania was accused of having failed to heed previous warnings.
“In light of this assessment, and after considering the opinion of the Economic and Financial Committee, the commission intends to propose to the council to open excessive deficit procedures for these member states in July 2024,” the EU executive said.
“Longstanding structural challenges are holding back the EU’s competitiveness,” EU Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a statement.
“We look forward to receiving national fiscal structural plans from member states that bring down debt and deficit and reflect today’s recommendations.”
For decades, the EU has set out targets for member states to keep their annual deficit within 3% of Gross Domestic Product and overall debt within 60% of output.
The Commission noted that Maltàs general government deficit decreased from a deficit of 5.5% of GDP in 2022 to a deficit of 4.9% in 2023, while the general government debt fell from 51.6% of GDP at the end of 2022 to 50.4% at the end of 2023. According to the fiscal policy guidance for 2024, the Commission is taking the first step for the opening of deficit-based excessive deficit procedures on the basis of the 2023 data.
The Maltese government has repeatedly defended its position, arguing that the deficit is falling as the economy grows.
The Finance Minister has insisted that the gap will continue shrinking by 0.5 percentage points each year up to 2026 in line with the Economic Governance Framework agreement reached between EU finance ministers last January.
The Commission called on Malta to submit the medium-term fiscal-structural plan in a timely manner and to keep the general government debt at a prudent level over the medium term in line with EU treaties.
It again urged Malta to “wind down the emergency energy support measures by the 2024/2025 winter” and address remaining aggressive tax planning risks, introduce a withholding tax on outbound payments or equivalent defensive measures, and amend rules on non-domiciled companies.”
Prime Minister Robert Abela had warned ahead of the EU elections earlier this month that Malta would not lift the energcy subsidies’ whatever the EU said.”
The commission also urged Malta to continue with the swift and effective implementation of the recovery and resilience plan, including the REPowerEU chapter, ensuring completion of reforms and investments by August 2026.
Malta was urged to strengthen the quality and labour market relevance of education and training to address low educational outcomes as well as the severe shortage and mismatch of skills, in particular by fostering basic skills of students and the professional development of teachers.
Malta was also urged to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy through large-scale projects as well as small-scale investments in direct energy production and consumption.
A call was made for Malta to address traffic congestion by improved quality and efficiency of public transport and step upinvestments in ‘soft mobility’ infrastructure.
The news comes just after the European election campaign when Prime Minister Robert Abela pledged income tax cuts for lower middle income earners in the forthcoming budget.
“The government takes note of the draft Country Specific recommendations and Country Report, issued by the European Commission, which highlight the achievements obtained together with the remaining and emerging challenges,” the statement reads.
However, the statement makes no reference to the phasing out of blanket energy and fuel support, which is costing public coffers in excess of €300 million annually.
Instead, the government said it was accelerating the green transition with four new calls for investments in larger renewable energy systems. It also noted that a second electrical cable interconnection between Malta and Sicily is slated to be commissioned by the end of 2026.
Government said it remains committed to effectively implementing the Recovery and Resilience Plan, including the REPowerEU Chapter, the statement added. “The implementation of this plan will tackle areas addressing the green and digital elements, as well as reforms in other sectors.”
On the need to bolster the education system, the government said the new National Education Strategy (2024-2030) is based on the pillars of wellbeing, growth and empowerment and equity and inclusion.
Reacting to the Commission’s assessment on the transport situation, government said significant investment has been directed towards improving transportation infrastructure, including both major and urban road networks, upgrades to the inner-harbour ferry system and the promotion of alternative eco-friendly commuting options. The extension of the free public transport to all led to an increase in the usage of this service, the government added.
It said the Commission noted that Maltàs economy will continue to outperform other Member States in 2024 and 2025. This growth is expected to be driven by net exports and private consumption.

– Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma –

(ITALPRESS).


Source: medNews

Malta’s high education level below the EU average

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) (ITALPRESS) – According to a study by Eurostat, Maltàs high education level is below the EU average with 40.8% of the country registering a low education level.
In the EU, 31.8% of people aged 25-74 attained a high educational level, with Malta coming below average with 28.1%.
European countries were assessed on the education level attained by each population aged 25-74, according to data collected in 2022.
On average, 23.3% of Europès population have attained lower education (primary/lower secondary). Malta, with 40.8% of its population, stands fourth among countries with the highest percentages of their populations with low education, with Turkey taking first with 61.8% of its population.
When it comes to young people (25-34) attaining tertiary education, Malta (42.4%) stands just above Europe’s average (42%).

– Foto: Agenzia Fotogramma –

(ITALPRESS).


Source: medNews

Libya, over 7.000 migrants rejected in six months

VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – To date 7,100 migrants have been forcibly repatriated to Libya. The data comes from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), according to which in the first six months of the year there were also 282 deaths and 449 missing people in the Mediterranean. The figures highlight the deadly risks associated with this migration route and the urgent need for international solutions. The IOM report highlights a growing humanitarian crisis as growing numbers of migrants attempt the perilous journey across the Mediterranean in search of better life opportunities in Europe. Libyàs strategic location made it an important starting point, but the country’s political instability and ongoing conflict have led to serious human rights violations. Detainees in Libyan centers often face overcrowding, lack of medical care and abuse.
Human rights organizations have repeatedly called for an end to these practices and for safer migration routes to be established. IOM and other international bodies are calling for greater support to improve conditions in Libya and the creation of legal and safe routes for migrants and refugees.
(ITALPRESS).
– Photo credit: Agenzia Fotogramma –


Source: medNews

Malta, the length of trials is not satisfactory for Europe

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – Maltàs justice system rank poorly when compared to justice systems in other EU countries, not least due to the length of time it takes for cases to be resolved. This was confirmed by the EU Justice Scoreboard’s report for 2023. The EU Justice Scoreboard is published by the European Commission every year, and presents an annual overview of indicators on the efficiency, quality and independence of justice systems across the EU’s member states. The 2023 edition is primarily based on 2021 data, though it does take into account some developments that took place in 2022. The caseload of Maltàs justice system is actually one of the smallest in the EU per capita, with 2.3 incoming non-criminal cases per 100 inhabitants during 2021, the third-lowest after Luxembourg and Greece. Nevertheless, the length of Maltàs court proceedings is notorious, even if improvements have been registered. The estimated time to resolve civil, commercial, administrative and other non-criminal cases was no less than 350 days in 2021; the fifth highest among member states. The Justice Ministry emphasised that the data refered to in the scoreboard represented a year in which Malta was transitioning out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the Law Courts were consequently not operating at full capacity. Minister Jonathan Attard was quoted as saying that the report showed “that Malta is starting to bear the fruits of the landmark and courageous reforms that the Government is implementing,” and that the government would continue to invest in infrastructure and human resources to achieve “the best possible results”.
(ITALPRESS).
– Photo credit: Agenzia Fotogramma –


Source: medNews

Malta, one in six people at risk of poverty in 2023

LA VALLETTA (MALTA) (ITALPRESS/MNA) – One out of every six people in Maltese households were at risk of poverty last year. This was confirmed by lofficial data released by the National Statistics Office. Statistics from the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions survey show that 88,462 people were under the poverty line in 2023. This means that 16.6% of the local population was at risk of poverty, a marginal decrease of 0.1% over 2022. A fifth (22%) of those at risk of poverty were aged under 18 years, an increase of 2.7 percentage points from the previous year. Meanwhile, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points was observed among people aged 18 to 64, equivalent to 12.1% in 2023.
The rate for those aged 65 or more went down to 29%, equivalent to a decrease of 1 percentage point. Material and social deprivation indicators are based on 13 items, of which seven relate to the person’s household and six relate to the person.
When compared to 2022, the highest increases in 2023 were recorded in the group of respondents who said that their household was unable to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish, or vegetarian equivalent every second day, and those whose household found it difficult to face unexpected financial expenses. On a scale from zero to 10, where zero represents not satisfied at all, and 10 represents completely satisfied, respondents at risk of poverty or social exclusion reported lower average scores when it comes to their satisfaction with overall life, financial situation, current job, and personal relationships when compared to those not at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion. Average scores for overall satisfaction about at-risk-of-poverty or social exclusion were slightly higher in 2023 when compared to 2022. Particularly, in 2023 respondents at risk of poverty or social exclusion reported a mean score of seven for satisfaction with their overall life – an increase of 0.2 points from 2022 and a mean score of 6.2 for satisfaction with their financial situation, translating into an increase of 0.4 points. They also reported a mean score of 7.4 for satisfaction with their current job – an increase of 0.1 points from 2022, and a mean score of 8.5 for satisfaction with personal relationships, representing an increase of 0.3 points.
(ITALPRESS).
– Photo credit: Ipa Agency –


Source: medNews

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