Maltese interior minister not impressed with Bratislava’s migration plan.
Author: Jacopo Barigazzi
Malta would be overwhelmed and “sink” if a Slovakian plan for tackling migration were to be implemented, according to Maltese Interior Minister Carmelo Abela.
Slovakia is one of the harshest critics of the European Commission’s refugee relocation scheme, and has drawn up an alternative plan that would allow countries to hand over cash rather than take in migrants. The plan will be discussed by Abela and his EU counterparts at a dinner meeting Thursday.
But the Maltese are not impressed.
“If … we receive hundreds of thousands of migrants and [other EU member countries] give us only money, first and foremost I think we’ll sink because our country is already densely populated,” Abela told POLITICO at the Maltese embassy in Brussels.
The minister, and other members of the Maltese government, were in Brussels for meetings in the Commission and Parliament ahead of the start of the country’s presidency of the Council, which begins in January. Malta takes over at the helm from Slovakia.
The Slovakian proposal, based on what it calls “effective solidarity,” would allow EU members to help out others on a voluntary, not compulsory basis. Based on the talks on Thursday, Bratislava intends to update the plan and present it to EU leaders for discussion next month.
“I don’t see that [it is effective], because if most member states decide to give a financial contribution but not take migrants, the problem will still be with that member state,” Abela said.
Slovakia has taken the Commission to court over its mandatory refugee relocation policy. But tiny Malta, one of the frontline states on migration, wants to speed up the work carried out by the Commission, especially an overhaul of the Dublin regulation that forces asylum seekers to be registered in the country in which they arrived.
“Our aim is to have a permanent relocation mechanism in place,” Abela said, stressing that “Dublin will have center stage” when the Maltese take over the Council presidency.
The problem is that “time is against us, we have an issue not at the doorstep but in our house,” he said, referring to the 1.2 million migrants that arrived in Europe last year. The flow is far from being stemmed: nearly 27,500 migrants reached Italian shores in October, the highest monthly number ever recorded in the Central Mediterranean and more than twice as many as in the previous month, according to Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency.
The last time Europe changed its asylum regulation it took it six years to find agreement but Abela, a member of the ruling Labour Party, hopes this time it will be quicker. He said migration is no longer “an issue of two or three frontline member states, all member states in one way or another have experienced the issue of migration.”