No EU solidarity on migration, says Maltese foreign minister

Evarist Bartolo says top EU leaders 'do not come down here to see what has happened.'

No EU solidarity on migration, says Maltese foreign minister

The EU’s smallest member is dealing with record numbers of migrants arriving on its shores but is not getting the help it needs, Malta’s foreign minister said.

“In the first three months of this year … the Central Mediterranean route saw a jump of 438 percent in terms of illegal migration,” Evarist Bartolo told POLITICO, quoting a figure from Frontex, the EU’s border and coast guard agency. He said “about 1,200 arrived in Malta” and as the island nation has a population of less than half a million, that number “would translate into a lot of thousands in other states.” 

If the same proportion “arrived in Madrid, it would be over 12,400, very similar to the 13,000 that [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan sent to Greece [earlier this year],” Bartolo said. Then, “the leaders of the European Union flew [to the EU’s border] to encourage Greece to stop what was happening. In our case, there isn’t that visibility: the top EU leaders do not come down here to see what has happened.”

In Brussels, not all countries are equal, according to the Maltese Labour Party politician. “The big countries do what they like and the small ones have to obey and behave … it’s very unbalanced.”

Malta, like Italy, closed its ports because of the COVID-19 pandemic but in nearby Libya there’s a “humanitarian crisis developing” because of the virus, Bartolo said.

A major problem for Malta is that its migration centers “are full,” said Bartolo, adding that the country has around 4,000 migrants out of a population of more than 400,000.

“We’re very worried,” he said, because “since 2005, we’ve had about 22,000 arrivals. EU member states took 1,700 of those, eight out of every 100 … that is definitely not solidarity. We are very grateful for Germany, for France, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg. They help us in their own way, but the numbers are small, they are nowhere near what we need.”

And “to make it more painful, since 2005 the United States took double the amount that the European Union members in total took … the United States of Barack Obama took 3,300, compared to the 1,700 that EU member states took.”

A major problem for Malta is that its migration centers “are full,” said Bartolo, adding that the country has around 4,000 migrants out of a population of more than 400,000, “which means that about 1 percent of people living in Malta are in detention centres or in centers waiting to be processed.” 

The European Commission confirmed last week that it will present a proposal to reform asylum laws but “unless the two issues are tied together, the issue of disembarkation and relocation, no proposal will address our needs,” Bartolo said. Relocation pledges have to be made first, he said, because otherwise “we do get promises, but then they are not kept.”

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela said last week that the country will keep 57 rescued migrants on a ship outside its territorial waters until the EU can relocate them and admitted that a second group of asylum seekers had been returned to Libya, while denying that was a “pushback” — a practice that is against international law.

But Bartolo didn’t rule out other asylum seekers being returned to Libya in a similar manner: “The biggest pushback in the Central Mediterranean is coming from the European Union,” he said, because the EU is pushing all the responsibility on to Malta and Italy.

“We do not like to do this, but if we are not helped and we are left to our own devices, what do you want us to do? … If other countries do not help us, we have to look after ourselves.”

Source : Politico EU More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

Poland’s Schrödinger’s election

Sunday's election is sort-of canceled, but there's still no date for another vote.

Poland’s Schrödinger’s election

WARSAW — Is it an election if no one votes?

That’s the Zen riddle that Poland will be grappling with over the weekend thanks to a presidential election scheduled for Sunday that isn’t being called off but also won’t happen.

Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and Poland’s de facto ruler, issued a statement late Wednesday saying that the May 10 vote will be annulled once the Supreme Court certifies that the election didn’t happen, and that the speaker of parliament will then set a new date for a postal-only vote.

It’s a relief to opposition candidates who feared being trounced by incumbent Andrzej Duda, and to the European Commission and international organizations, which had become increasingly alarmed at the headlong rush to hold a vote on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

But that doesn’t mean the electoral clock is stopped. Poland’s National Electoral Commission website is still counting down the hours until the vote begins.

“Kaczyński stole Poland from us” — Szymon Hołownia, independent parliamentary candidate

It’s just that on Sunday morning, no polling stations will be open.

The bizarre situation is a defeat for Kaczyński, who had pushed so hard for the Sunday election that it split the country and threatened to break apart his right-wing ruling coalition. But that effort ran into so many logistical, political and legal hurdles that even the stubborn PiS leader had to give way when faced with the threat of losing his parliamentary majority.

The election was scheduled months ago, but then the coronavirus hit — turning the normal procedure of voting into a potential killer.

There is a legal way of delaying a vote: The government could declare a state of natural catastrophe, which automatically shifts elections until 90 days after such a state is lifted. However, Law and Justice refused to take that step — in large measure because Duda is far ahead in opinion polls.

Switching to an election months from now could provide an opening for the opposition. There’s also the danger of a worsening economic and health toll from the pandemic, which so far has been less deadly in Poland than in many Western European countries, killing 755 and infecting 15,047.

Political contortions

Kaczyński’s ploy left the rest of the country scrambling to figure out the new political and legal landscape.

Joanna Lemańska, head of one of the divisions of the Supreme Court, was nonplussed by Kaczyński — legally nothing more than a run-of-the-mill MP — dictating a verdict for what’s supposed to be an independent legal body.

“I was very surprised about the information that a decision has been taken about the [court’s] future ruling,” she told the Onet news portal.

Opposition candidates — who had conducted a debate with Duda on national television just before Kaczyński dropped his announcement — attacked the move, although there’s broad satisfaction that a vote they were very likely to lose has been delayed.

Robert Biedroń, the candidate of the left, called the way the decision was made a “coup d’état” and said that those responsible should face legal sanctions.

For more polling data from across Europe visit Poll of Polls.

“Kaczyński stole Poland from us,” said Szymon Hołownia, a fast-rising independent candidate.

Duda said he was “very satisfied” with the decision to delay the vote.

It’s still unclear when a new vote will be held — with dates from June to August being suggested. The parliament on Thursday passed a law changing the format of the election to only allow mail-in ballots. Parliament is due to pass a new electoral law next week reinstating the electoral commission as the body running the election; it had been sidelined as Kaczyński attempted to ram through a May 10 vote.

It’s also unclear whether the existing candidates, each of whom had to gather 100,000 signatures to take part, will be automatically included in the new election, and whether new candidates will be able to run.

Leader of ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party Jarosław Kaczyński attends a lower-house session of parliament in Warsaw on May 6, 2020 | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

That opens a possible window of opportunity for Civic Platform, the largest opposition party. It could potentially shift candidates as its current nominee, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, is doing badly in opinion polls, although she did say it was an opposition success to halt the “insanity” of holding an election on Sunday.

The clock reset is also being greeted with relief in Brussels.

The European Commission was careful to stress that arranging elections is something that’s under the control of national authorities, but added that such a vote should be consistent with “European standards” that include “sound electoral processes, legal certainty refraining from short-term changes to electoral laws, free and secret suffrage and a fair electoral campaign.”

Katarina Barley, vice president of the European Parliament and a former German justice minister, was more cutting. She called the decision to delay the election “overdue,” but added, “It would be a mistake to think the PiS government’s undermining of democracy and the rule of law stops here … A route towards free and fair elections is still not visible.”

Source : Politico EU More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.