Informal meeting of EU heads of state or government, Malta, 03/02/2017
The informal summit in Malta, hosted by the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk, consisted of two parts. In the morning leaders agreed on measures to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Italy. In the afternoon they discussed preparations for the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties on 25 March 2017.
EU-Libya cooperation: stemming the flow
In the morning, the 28 EU heads of state of government discussed the external dimension of migration. They adopted the Malta Declaration, which focuses on measures to stem the flow of migration from Libya to Italy.
In the declaration they noted that on the Central Mediterranean route over 181,000 irregular migrants arrived in 2016, and the number of persons dead or missing at sea reached a new record every year since 2013.
With the spring approaching, leaders decided to take additional action to significantly reduce migratory flows, break the business model of smugglers and save lives. In particular, the agreed to step up cooperation with the Libyan authorities.
"Efforts to stabilise Libya are now more important than ever, and the EU will do its utmost to contribute to that objective. In Libya, capacity building is key for the authorities to acquire control over the land and sea borders and to combat transit and smuggling activities."
The Malta Declaration
The EU leaders confirmed their support for the the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord backed by the United Nations. They also declared readiness to cooperate with Libyan regional and local communities as well as international organisations active in the country.
The priorities include:
- training, equipping and supporting the Libyan national coast guard and other relevant agencies
- further efforts to disrupt the business model of smugglers through enhanced operational action by involving Libya and relevant international partners
- improving the socio-economic situation of local communities in Libya, especially in coastal areas and at Libyan land borders on the migratory routes
- seeking to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, together with the UNHCR and IOM
- supporting IOM in stepping up voluntary return activities
- enhancing information campaigns aimed at migrants
Leaders also emphasised the need to help reduce the pressure on Libya's land border by enhancing Libya's border management capacity and by working with neighbouring countries.
"We welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the Italian and Libyan Prime Ministers as another important and encouraging sign that things are about to change for the better", said President Donald Tusk at the press conference after the working session on migration. "The European Union and our actions will support Italy and Libya. It is our shared responsibility."
Leaders also welcomed the intention of the Maltese Presidency to present a concrete plan for implementation to the Council at the earliest opportunity, to take work forward and to ensure close monitoring of results. The European Council should review progress on the overall approach at its meetings in March and in June 2017 on the basis of a report from the Maltese Presidency.
Ahead of the summit President Tusk met with Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya. They discussed possible ways of better cooperation between the EU and Libya.
Preparations for the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties
The afternoon session was an occasion for the 27 leaders to prepare for the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties on 25 March 2017.
The discussions built upon the political reflection on the future of the EU with 27 member states, launched immediately after the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016 and continued in Bratislava on 16 September 2016.
"Constructive discussion at Malta summit on future of EU27, importance of unity and preparation of the Rome summit."
President Donald Tusk on Twitter after the meeting
In his letter on the future of Europe sent to the 27 heads of state or government on 31 January 2017, President Donald Tusk identified three main threats, dangerous for the stability of Europe. These include:
- new geopolitical situation: an increasingly assertive China, Russia's aggressive policy towards Ukraine and its neighbours, wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa (with radical Islam playing a major role) and worrying declarations by the new American administration all make our future highly unpredictable
- internal situation: a rise of the nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU itself
- state of mind of the pro-European elites: decline of faith in political integration, submission to populist arguments and doubt in the fundamental values of liberal democracy
In the letter, President Donald Tusk called on the leaders to stay united.
"It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent."