Mediterranean and Southern European leaders have called on their co-legislators to step up negotiations on the Pact on Migration and Asylum and reach an agreement in all files before the end of the legislative term.
Heads of State and Government from Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Italy, Malta, and the Secretary of State for European Affairs of Spain recently gathered for the Med9 summit in Valletta.
In a joint declaration, they acknowledged the challenges posed by irregular migration and called for a sustained EU response.
They put the onus on “co-legislators” to step up negotiations on the Pact on Migration and Asylum to reach an agreement in all files before the end of the current legislative term.
“This agreement must provide the necessary assurances that the needs of frontline countries will be adequately met. In addition, we recall the need for a significant increase in the EU’s efforts on the external dimension front with a renewed approach to effectively reduce primary movements and prevent departures, improve the rate of returns of failed asylum seekers and other third country nationals who have no legal right to remain in the Union, address the root causes of irregular migration while respecting the protection of fundamental rights and international obligations.”
The leaders expressed sorrow and solidarity for recent natural disasters in the region, and pledged continued support for affected areas.
They also emphasised the increasing importance of cooperation among Southern EU countries, especially amid challenges like Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and economic pressures.
The leaders stressed the importance of a stable Mediterranean for Europe, and welcomed efforts to strengthen EU relations with partners in the Southern Neighbourhood, focusing on comprehensive partnerships and increased engagement.
With regard to Ukraine, the leaders condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and pledged support for Ukraine’s independence and territorial integrity, including humanitarian efforts.
They also noted that the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel and North Africa is negatively impacting security in the Mediterranean and EU. Leaders also pointed to food insecurity issues, particularly with the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
“It is incumbent on us to adopt a stronger paradigm for Euro-African cooperation on matters of peace and security so that we can ensure that we effectively respond to the needs of our partners. Adopting a broader approach, encompassing the entire African continent, will also contribute to this endeavour. We welcome the fact that the African Union has become a permanent member of the G20. This is an acknowledgement of Africa’s role on the global stage,” the declaration reads.
The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem in line with relevant UN resolutions and EU principles. They welcomed the EU’s readiness to play an active role in supporting all stages of the UN-led process, including the appointment of an EU representative.
They also discussed the impact of climate change, especially the Mediterranean region, and emphasised the need for concerted climate action, including climate adaptation efforts.
They pointed out that Slovenia will take over the Presidency of the Barcelona Convention at the end of 2023. “It is time that the Mediterranean countries step up the implementation of the commitments to protect our common sea.”
They highlighted the potential for renewable energy generation in the region and pledged to accelerate the EU’s decarbonisation efforts, focusing on energy interconnections and green energy corridors.
In this regard, they said this could be done by following the example of the ELMED interconnection with Tunisia, the Euroasia interconnector between Greece-Cyprus and Israel, and the GREGY Interconnector between Greece and Egypt.
The leaders are also looking forward to reforms in the EU’s economic governance framework and emphasised the need for a mid-term revision of the Multi-Annual Financial Framework to address new challenges. This in light of “a series of unprecedented and unexpected challenges” faced by the EU since 2020.
They reaffirmed their commitment to the EU membership perspective of the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, and recognised the need to reflect on how the EU can prepare for the future, “to remain able to act in a strong and sovereign manner”.
The leaders stressed the importance of social policies and education, with an aim to reduce inequalities and empower citizens.
They also committed themselves to further strengthen the single market and enhance digitialisation efforts for a more integrated and competitive European economy.
They said they support a comprehensive free and fair trade policy to strengthen strategic alliances, enhance competitiveness, and ensure environmental and labour standards.
Moreover, they highlighted their expanded coordination efforts on more technical levels, referring to ministerial meetings held in Malta over the past months.
“These meetings have served to launch our vision for the Mediterranean region in various sectoral areas where coordinated and unified regional action could accelerate our common agenda. In this respect, we see merit in the intensification of follow ups at technical level to ensure that continuous progress is registered, and ultimately, that the goals set are achieved for the benefit of our citizens.”