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Meloni, Macron in Malta for MED9 summit dominated by migration

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the leaders of nine EU countries flying into Malta on Friday for summit talks expected to be dominated by the issue of migration.

The heads of government of the southern EU states hope to find a common position on how to deal with the divisive issue amid a rise in the number of people crossing the Mediterranean for Europe’s shores.

It will be the first visit to Malta for Meloni, who recently said she would not allow Italy to become “Europe’s refugee camp” after 11,000 people arrived on the island of Lampedusa within days.

The MED9 summit will also discuss issues of human trafficking and organised crime on a European level. 

It will be the first visit to Malta for Meloni, who recently said she would not allow Italy to become 'Europe’s refugee camp' after 11,000 people arrived on the island of Lampedusa within days

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel will participate during the first part of the summit held in Castille.

Other leaders taking part in discussions led by Prime Minister Robert Abela include Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and Slovenian Prime Minister Robert Golob.

Spain is the only delegation that will not send its head of government to the summit due to an upcoming vote in the Spanish parliament that requires the attendance of all its sitting MPs. Spain’s State Secretary for the European Union, Pascual Ignacio Navarro Ríos will be representing the country during the talks.

A bilateral discussion between Meloni and Macron took place earlier this week in Rome, in the background of former president Giorgio Napolitano’s State funeral amid rising tensions over who should take responsibility for asylum seekers.

Balkan countries present for the summit are also understood to have an interest in how the subject is to develop on a European level, particularly as they continue to experience a significant increase in asylum seekers as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.

Other topics to be discussed, like climate change

The EU’s proposed New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a packet of updated rules and policies intended to set a common approach towards migration in Europe, is also expected to be discussed among the leaders, particularly during the first sessions, which Von der Leyen and Michel are invited to attend.

In recent years, Malta has signed various trade and other agreements with Tunisia and Libya, including setting up a Malta-Libya Coordination Centre to tackle the migration issue. Abela has previously said this model could be applied on a European level within the EU.

Other topics expected to be discussed include the mid-term revision of the EU’s seven-year budget, climate change – particularly in the context of extreme weather events and natural disasters occurring around the Mediterranean –the invasion of Ukraine and how to better ensure that sanctions placed on Russia aren’t sidestepped, the economy, energy and fuel prices.

The group is also expected to discuss their participation in upcoming meetings in Spain and Brussels in the coming months and consolidate their positions on common topics, forming a de facto bloc at the bargaining table with all 27 EU member States. 

Maintaining Malta's connectivity to mainland Europe

In these discussions, Malta is also expected to stress the importance of maintaining the island’s connectivity to mainland Europe through air and sea routes, particularly when it comes to accessing essential medicines.

In the background of the summit, several bilateral talks were expected to take place last night between the European leaders, including between Malta and Croatia.

In June, Croatia was placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) so-called grey list, making it the only EU country currently on the list. Malta was removed from the grey list just over a year ago.

Being placed on the grey list means international assessors and bodies put the country under increased scrutiny.

Malta is understood to have offered technical assistance to Croatia on how it approached reform to better tackle financial crime.

The leaders are expected to make courtesy visits to President George Vella throughout the duration of the summit.

The event will culminate with statements from each of the European leaders this evening in Mdina.