Seven leaders of Southern EU Member States met in Malta on Friday where they discussed issues of common concern ranging from migration to climate change and the EU budget.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat hosted French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at Auberge de Castille, the Office of the Prime Minister in Valletta.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the aim was to coordinate ways to work together, which aims were recorded in the official declaration signed after the summit. The summit comes before the newly elected MEPs meet at the European Parliament. "The EU is expected to, and should, play a meaningful global role by stimulating stability and growth." said Muscat.
The leaders also discussed economic growth, which leads to more and better jobs, placing at the centre of their policies. "Our region needs to be at the forefront of innovation, a hotbed for the creation, development and roll-out of emerging citizen-centric technologies, designed to enhance socio-economic wellbeing," Muscat said.
During a press conference held after the roundtable discussion and signing of a declaration, the six leaders all expressed their solidarity and support towards Cyprus and its people following the recent escalation of tensions between the country and Turkey.
The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that this was not a bilateral matter but an EU-Turkey matter, underlining that the bloc has to adopt specific measures in this regard. He said the only way to address this problem was through dialogue. "We want Turkey to abide by international laws, and those who do not should face consequences," he added.
Another theme discussed among the leaders was that of migration. In the declaration which the seven leaders signed, it was underlined that although progress has been made, the Southern Mediterranean States are still facing persistent migratory pressures. The leaders underlined that continuous efforts are needed towards a comprehensive approach on migration. They also referred to the need of channels for legal migration, improved border control, and a reformed and harmonized common European asylum system that would guarantee effective implementation of the principle of solidarity and fair burden sharing between Member States.
The Spanish Prime Minister spoke about the need to think of "Africa as an opportunity", saying that his country was only a few miles away from the African continent. He stressed on the importance of building relations with African countries and not only talk about migration.
On the other hand Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte spoke about the lack of implementing conclusions which have been decided in June 2018. He stressed on the need of such conclusions to be turned into practice saying that "we cannot continue to be abstract in our solidarity" and that such situations is leading to frustration among European citizens. Conte also spoke about the instability in Libya which is leading to an increase in the influx of migrants saying that a political solution is needed, starting from a ceasefire and the need to dialogue.
Another theme dominating the summit was that of climate change. The leaders declared that they will jointly strive to tackle the effects of climate change in the Mediterranean basin, as they reaffirmed their commitment to the objective of climate neutrality, which should be reached by 2050. They also voiced their concern about plastic pollution and its effect on the marine environment, with the Spanish Prime Minister urging for more resources allocated in the next budget to address climate change.
The leaders welcomed the adoption of a directive on single-use plastics.
"We need to ensure we intensify our work on the EU's climate strategy, mindful of regional specifics, to implement the objectives we all agreed to in the Paris Agreement," said Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Energy security was also on agenda of the sixth summit, with Muscat stating that "We need a well-connected Mediterranean region as a precondition for a fully functioning energy market aimed at sustainability, affordability, and security of supply."
The seven leaders reiterated their commitment in the digital field in the Southern Mediterranean region and declared that they will keep looking more deeply into concrete cross-border projects on matters such as Distributed Ledger Technologies, and other technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things among others.