Leaders of the European Union are meeting in Malta on February 3 in their first informal gathering of the year, with a key topic being stemming the flow of irregular migration from Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe.
“This is the only way to stop people dying in the deserts and at sea. This is also the only way to gain control over migration in Europe,” European Council President Donald Tusk said ahead of the meeting.
Bulgaria, currently in the stewardship of a caretaker government pending the outcome of early parliamentary elections in March 2017, is to be represented at the meeting by head of state President Roumen Radev.
Tusk said that following his talks with Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni on February 1 and with Libyan prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj on their bilateral co-operation, “I can say that this goal is within our reach”.
The European Council President said that he had spoken with other EU leaders, including French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel about this bilateral co-operation between Italy and Libya, and there had been agreement on the need to support Italy regarding the co-operation.
“Europe should and will stand by Italy in sharing the responsibility,” Tusk said.
With the spring approaching, EU leaders are expected to agree on a number of immediate and concrete measures to stem migratory flows, break the business model of smugglers and save lives, a statement by the EU Council presidency said ahead of the meeting.
In particular, leaders will discuss the need to step up co-operation with the Libyan authorities.
Furthermore, leaders are expected to call for increased co-operation with the UN High Commission for Refugees and with the International Organization for Migration.
Meanwhile, it is expected that in Malta, socialist leaders of EU member states to discuss their proposal for a candidate to succeed Tusk, whose term of office as European Council President expires in May.
Poland’s governing Law and Justice party indicated some months ago that it was not going to support Tusk for a further term in office. Left-wing leaders in the EU are also unhappy that all three major leadership posts in the EU – the presidencies of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament – are held by people from the centre-right European People’s Party.
(Photos: Council of the European Union)