President of Malta George Vella commended the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the only European Union agency based in Malta, for having been a success story since it was established in 2011, while urging it to continue delivering results with the same level of commitment and high standards. At the same time, he expressed his disappointment at the lack of progress that has been made at the intergovernmental level within the Union to unblock the lack of consensus on migration. He also warned that, if the current divisions among member states on this issue continue to prevail, we will once again be looking at a scenario where the frontline countries are left to fend on their own.
Addressing a conference held in Valletta to mark EASO’s 10th anniversary, the President remarked that, despite the several attempts made and initiatives taken – including many by Malta itself along these past years – results come nowhere close to addressing the EU member sates’ fundamental needs. “I have started to ask myself whether the time has come for progress to be made by those who really want it – and are ready to contribute to it”, said the President. “Does the willingness to act tangibly for a solution by many have to be blocked by a few? Could this be a case where a ‘coalition of the willing’ among EU member states, takes the lead?”
“It is very important for all parties to increase their collective efforts towards those who need it most – further emphasising return and readmission and the role that countries of origin have to play in this regard and supporting international cooperation to tackle migrant smuggling and human trafficking”, said President Vella. “I remain very seriously concerned with the continuing irregular flows arriving at the EU’s external borders; the Central Mediterranean route continues to see the highest number of crossings. The pressure might be exacerbated by the situation in Afghanistan and develop into a migration crisis for which we are not prepared, and the fall out of which is something we cannot even imagine. The time is ripe for our leaders to take stock, at the upcoming European Council, of the implementation of the taskings emanating from the June European Council Conclusions. A year after the presentation of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, progress on an effective and permanent solidarity mechanism remains limited. One could go as far as saying that the word ‘solidarity’ – enshrined in the Treaty, let us not forget – seems to have lost its value, meaning, and attached responsibility. We know all too well that discussions are not and will not be easy, but this is no excuse not to give this very important issue the attention it deserves. We cannot keep telling our citizens that despite all our talk on solidarity, we still lack the effective assurances needed.”
The conference was also addressed by, amongst others, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR, Gillian Triggs; European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Yiva Johansson; Vice President of the European Commission Margarita Schinas; and Executive Director, EASO, Nina Gregori.