Italy, Greece and Malta will form a “common front” at a European Union summit this week, trying to convince the bloc’s other 25 member states to step up the EU response to migration from North Africa.
“I will not be happy with a change of word here and there that may not mean anything,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told reporters in Valletta today. “We will gauge the actual political willingness to change the status quo.”
Illegal migration from North Africa came under the spotlight this month when two boats sank a week apart off Lampedusa, Italy, killing hundreds of people. In the year through September, the EU reported 31,000 illegal border crossings on the central Mediterranean route, mostly directed toward Italy and Malta.
Muscat said the countries will seek above all a “coherent returns policy” for repatriating illegal migrants.
“We need European help to coordinate this operation,” Muscat said. “There are other proposals and we are offering solutions and a clear plan. I hope that by the end of this week the plan will be taken up by other countries.”
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in Valletta that the three countries will seek to enlist France and Spain in the push for greater EU support of countries on Europe’s southern flank.
“Greece itself is burdened with as many migrants as it has unemployed,” Samaras said. “This is a humanitarian problem that necessitates a European solution.”
Samaras, who flies to Rome today for talks with Prime Minister Enrico Letta, said: “Our borders are Europe’s borders and human trafficking is knocking on our doors.”