Valletta (Malta), 29/09/2023.- (L-R) Spain'Äôs State Secretary for the EU, Pascual Ignacio Navarro Rios, Cyprus' President Nikos Christodoulides, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Malta'Äôs Prime Minister Robert Abela, French President Emmanuel Macron, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Slovenia's Prime Minister Robert Golob and Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, take part in a press conference at the 10th Summit of the Leaders of the Southern Countries of the European Union, in Valletta, Malta, 29 September 2023. The EU-Med9 meeting brings together the leaders or representatives of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Slovenia and Croatia. (Croacia, Chipre, Francia, Grecia, Italia, Eslovenia, España) EFE/EPA/Domenic Aquilina

Mediterranean EU countries call for action in Africa to stop migration

Rome, Sept 29 (EFE).- MED9 countries on Friday called for a “significant” increase in the European Union’s efforts in Africa in the countries of origin and transit of migrants trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean.

Leaders of the MED9, which includes France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Croatia and Slovenia, met on Friday in Valletta, Malta, during the 10th Euro-Mediterranean Summit.

The meeting comes at a key moment in the political debate between EU members on the European Pact on Migration and Asylum.

“Traffickers cannot decide who enters Europe,” said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during a press conference.

The representatives, presented a declaration calling for a “new approach” to reduce the movements and prevent the departure of illegal migrants from Africa.

The document, which supports many of the postulates defended by Meloni, calls for tackling the “root causes” of irregular migration, “dismantling” trafficking networks and preventing the departure of vessels that do not meet international safety standards.

It also calls for “improving the return rate of rejected asylum seekers and other third-country nationals who have no legal right to remain in the Union”.

“We need to improve our internal functioning to fight immigration – Macron said, referring to the negotiations in the EU – and our external action with African and transit countries.”

The MED9 statement comes after the latest round of negotiations on the European pact were paused on Thursday.

After all the signs pointed to an imminent deal, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, left the meeting early for Rome.

The latest text presented on Thursday was supported by Germany and France, but opposed by Poland and Hungary during a public debate.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks in a press conference at the 10th Summit of the Leaders of the Southern Countries of the European Union, in Valletta, Malta, 29 September 2023. EFE/EPA/Domenic Aquilina

Meloni said on Friday that Italy had distanced itself after Germany tabled an amendment on humanitarian NGOs, which she said was a “step backwards.”

The Italian criticized other European states for focusing their proposals on the “redistribution” of migrants between EU countries and called for more cooperation with African countries, both of origin and transit, of the people trying to reach Europe.

“It is not a solution for one country to pass the problem on to another,” Meloni insisted.

In a sign of her disagreement with the German approach, she also suggested that humanitarian organisations’ ships disembark migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in their flag countries rather than in Italian ports.

“You cannot be supportive at the borders of others,” said the far-right leader, whose executive is locked in a dispute with Berlin over the aid it offers to humanitarian organizations operating in the Mediterranean.

The MED9 summit was also attended by the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the President of Cyprus, Nikos Christodoulides, the Prime Ministers of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Portugal, António Costa and Slovenia, Robert Golob.

The Secretary of State for the European Union, Pascual Navarro, attended on behalf of Spain, representing the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, who attended Fridays’s inauguration of the Spanish government. EFE