Published: June 14, 2019
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat chose to emphasise on the situation in Libya, gender equality, and climate change amongst other subjects as he opened a round-table meeting with six other Mediterranean heads of state.
French President Emmanuel Macron was the first of the Mediterranean state leaders to arrive at Castille Palace on Friday afternoon for what is the sixth Southern EU Countries Summit, and the first to be hosted by Malta. Macron was greeted in Castille Square by Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the pair walked into Castille for a private bi-lateral meeting.
Nicos Anastasiades, the President of Cyprus, was second to arrive. Macron and Muscat meanwhile, following their meeting, took in some of the scenes, with Muscat leading the French premier to the Upper Baracca gardens where they briefly admired the vista over the Grand Harbour.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was next to arrive at the Office of the Prime Minister and he was soon followed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa. The seven leaders are now gathered inside Castille for a round-table meeting inside Castille, after which they will emerge to address a press conference later this evening.
Speaking at the start of the aforementioned round table meeting, Muscat said that decisions are being taken about the future of the European Union and that Mediterranean countries need to be sure that they are part of this decision-making process.
“The EU needs to play a meaningful role by stimulating stability and growth in the region and beyond”, Muscat said before adding that there has to be a vocation to promote peace and stability in the world even if the world itself is seemingly becoming less stable.
He emphasised that there must be security in the Mediterranean, but also noted that countries needed to put forth a set of principles to shape the future of Europe and safeguard its citizen’s wellbeing and freedoms.
He said that the European social agenda must now be put at the forefront and that measures relating to gender equality, and LGBTIQ+ inclusion must be promoted across the board.
Turning his eyes to the economy, Muscat noted that as country’s economies improve across the board, a strategy for economic growth must be placed at the centre of new policies so that the Mediterranean is at the forefront of innovation for citizen-centric technologies that will enhance citizen’s socio-economic wellbeing.
He addressed the need to intensify work in dealing with climate change, but reserved his final point for addressing what he called a “crux” for both Malta and the region as a whole, that of security.
“Instability in Libya is a threat to us and to the European Union as a whole”, Muscat said.
He said that the call for the engagement of the United Nations to ensure full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities was but the first step of a very long process in Libya, one which links up with the need for more stability in the rest of Africa, with Muscat noting that it was crucial to start getting at the roots of the migratory crisis.
He noted that progress on migratory impasses was only made through the good will of some EU states, and said that more permanent mechanisms to deal with such situations are needed.
Muscat commended the work being done by the Libyan coastguard, noting that it had been trained with the help of EU countries and also received funding from the union to carry out its work.
Finally, he said that the meeting was an opportunity to put pen to paper and express full solidarity with Cyprus on their escalating situation with Turkey; “this is definitely something that you will find full support in from those around this table”, Muscat said while addressing Anastasiades (pictured below).
Known as the ‘EUMed7’, Malta, France, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, and Cyprus formed the alliance in Brussels on 17 December 2013 to address issues of common interest in the Mediterranean region.
The initial summit took place on 9 September 2016 in Athens, when talks focused on coordinating action on relevant issues from economic growth to regional security.
Summits followed in Lisbon, Madrid and Rome, with the last held in Nicosia earlier this year, where discussions focused on major EU challenges, from climate change to migration and the Multi-annual Financial Framework. Prime Minister Muscat has attended all the summits.
This is the sixth summit, and the first to be held in Malta. Talks will continue on ongoing key issues, from migration to regional security, and also Brexit, the Eurozone, energy security, and social rights. A press conference will follow the discussions, before a leaders’ dinner.
Photos: Alenka Falzon