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Update 8: Malta to contribute financially to EU funds to address refugee crisis

Agreement step in right direction - Tusk

  • Photo: Reuters

    Photo: Reuters

  • Video: European Council

  • Video: Philip Leone Ganado

(Updated 1.50am Thursday)

Malta will contribute financially to EU funds to address the refugee crisis, as European leaders agreed on a contribution of at least €1 billion.

“Every country is expected to give assistance in one fund or another. We are currently examining what we can and can't give,” Dr Muscat said. “We cannot contribute millions but we will give our fair share, in a way that is not a significant burden on our finances. Please don't compare our eventual contributions to the like of Germany and France.”

Addressing journalists after the close of tonight's summit, the Prime Minister hailed the agreement as a  “strong political message” on the need for new ways of dealing with migration, but criticised Europe for a “small-minded” approach to the problem.

“I would expect a more global response from Europe. This situation is bigger than Europe and bigger than Syria. Syria is very important and if Europe can influence what's going on we should work to solve it, but immigration is a global phenomenon. Europe must take leadership on a global level and push for new institutions and new rules for this issue to be dealt with.”

Dr Muscat said the Dublin treaty was being questioned more than ever before and a decision was taken on Tuesday which countries that did not have opt outs or opt ins had to follow.

Through Tuesday's agreement, reached through a qualified majority vote, European countries have to share the burden of 120,000 refugees.

“Most of what was said today by central European was said in the past by Mediterraneans... We had the luxury of retaining the position we had taken then without even needing to shift just one millimetre.”

Dr Muscat said he was proud to have attended a summit where Malta was not asking for help but offering it. The number of refugees allocated to Malta, a total of 189, was extremely manageable and people could be really welcomed. The decision also gave Malta strength and credibility politically that if it was faced with problem once again there was a blueprint in place and it could ask for assistance.

Dr Muscat reiterated that he did not agree with the concept of putting up a wall, a stand taken by the Hungarian government and insisted that European policy had to be coherent.

“I asked where we should put up our wall, in the middle of the Mediterranean?.. We do not have luxury to put up a fence and check people out. The decision I have to take is whether or not to save a life...” Dr Muscat said.

He added that the illusion that a wall could be put up to protect Europe might be a solution to some countries for a time but was in reality only postponing the problem.

He noted that the problem did not start and end in Syria as migration was a global phenomenon.

Europe, Dr Muscat said, should take leadership on a global level, at a UN level.

“There need to be new institutions and new rules for the issue to be tackled...”

He said that a proposal was made for the setting up of a European border guard which he absolutely did not agree with as frontiers should remain national responsibility. The EU, however, should be ready to help countries if they needed help to protect their frontiers.

These, he said, were the particular points which set the scene for the October summit when migration would also be on the agenda.

He noted that the importance of the Valletta summit to be held in November was increasing day to day. Although it would not be the be all and end all of the situation it should put in place the foundations for managing of this influx as all interested parties would be discussing the matter around the same table.

AGREEMENT STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION - TUSK

Speaking after the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk said the agreement was a step in the right direction, as he warned that “millions” of refugees were trying to reach Europe from Syria alone.

“It is clear that the greatest tide of refugees and migrants is yet to come. Therefore we need to correct the policy of open doors and windows. Now the focus should be on the proper protection of our external borders and on external assistance to refugees and the countries in our neighbourhood.”

He said the aid being offered to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region was in exchange for greater cooperation on tackling the issue.

“Leaders also agreed that the current chaos at our external borders must end. Proper management and control of our external borders is our common responsibility. It would be unfair to put all the burden on Italy or Greece or other countries. Therefore, we all agreed to offer help in every possible way, including cooperation on hotspots.

Mr Tusk said this agreement was an important achievement as the topic seemed controversial until just a few days ago. All leaders agreed today that the hotspots will be set up by the end of November.

“The measures we have agreed today will not end the crisis. But they are all necessary steps in the right direction. We expect much work will already be done before we meet again at the October European Council. Tonight we have a common understanding that we cannot continue like we did before. Without changing the current paradigm the Schengen area will only exist in theory.”

 

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