Ex­ter­nal border man­age­ment re­mains a key is­sue to en­sure the EU’s se­cu­rity – Carmelo Abela

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

“The man­age­ment of the Euro­pean Union’s ex­ter­nal border re­mains a key is­sue in a bid to en­sure Euro­pean cit­i­zens’ se­cu­rity while main­tain­ing smooth in­ter­nal border cross­ings,” Min­is­ter for Home Af­fairs and Na­tional Se­cu­rity, Carmelo Abela, told Fab­rice Leg­geri, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Euro­pean Border and Coast Guard Agency (Fron­tex).

Mr Leg­geri was in Malta on Mon­day to hold talks in prepa­ra­tion for Malta’s Pres­i­dency of the Coun­cil of the EU in the first se­mes­ter of 2017.

At a meet­ing held at the Min­istry in Val­letta, Min­is­ter Abela said Malta wel­comed the re­cent re­launch of Fron­tex with an ex­tended man­date as a step in the right di­rec­tion. In spite of its size and lim­i­ta­tions, he noted, Malta is ac­tively in­volved in Fron­tex op­er­a­tions, its Armed Forces plac­ing per­son­nel and as­sets at the Agency’s dis­posal.

For the last three years, Malta has de­ployed a to­tal of around 400 sol­diers as part of Fron­tex mis­sions, on the Greek and Turk­ish is­lands and on the Ser­bian-Bul­gar­ian land border. Malta’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Fron­tex’s Joint Op­er­a­tion PO­SEI­DON (Sea) con­sists of coastal ob­ser­va­tion teams tasked with con­duct­ing sur­veil­lance of the nar­row bod­ies of wa­ter be­tween the Greek and Turk­ish is­lands. With re­gard to Joint Op­er­a­tion PO­SEI­DON (Land), Malta par­tic­i­pates with land-based teams op­er­at­ing on EU ex­ter­nal bor­ders con­duct­ing border pa­trolling and ob­ser­va­tion posts.

Since 2013, the AFM has de­ployed a joint mar­itime and land con­tin­gent of 130 sol­diers with the du­ra­tion per de­ploy­ment be­ing roughly one month. As of 2013, the AFM started de­ploy­ing teams to Bul­garia on its land border with Turkey, and has this year re­lo­cated them to the Ser­bian-Bul­gar­ian land border. In to­tal, the AFM has de­ployed a to­tal of 84 sol­diers on th­ese mis­sions.

As re­gards Joint Op­er­a­tion TRI­TON, which be­gan in Novem­ber 2014, Malta par­tic­i­pates by de­ploy­ing both mar­itime and air as­sets. Un­til Septem­ber 2016, Malta has con­ducted a to­tal of 5,793 pa­trolling hours by air or mar­itime sup­ported by 170 air and mar­itime per­son­nel. In con­junc­tion with this op­er­a­tion Malta has de­ployed 14 of­fi­cers at the TRI­TON In­ter­na­tional Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­tre (ICC) in Rome.

Min­is­ter Abela said that dur­ing its EU Pres­i­dency, Malta will strive to achieve sig­nif­i­cant progress on cur­rent ini­tia­tives aimed at bet­ter man­ag­ing the Union’s ex­ter­nal border. Th­ese in­clude the es­tab­lish­ment of an EU sys­tem to reg­is­ter en­try and exit of third coun­try na­tion­als, and the cre­ation of an EU Travel In­for­ma­tion and Au­tho­ri­sa­tion Scheme (ETIAS), which will also help bol­ster in­ter­nal se­cu­rity.

“We must also bear in mind that while it is es­sen­tial to en­sure good border man­age­ment, we can­not pur­sue only this as­pect, but we need to con­tinue main­tain­ing a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach,” the Min­is­ter said. “Mi­gra­tion flows in the cen­tral Mediter­ranean are back at the lev­els of pre­vi­ous years; we must not let go of our sense of ur­gency.” He also re­marked that while fo­cus on the cen­tral Mediter­ranean route is cru­cial, the EU must also ad­dress the emerg­ing, longer route from Egypt to­wards the cen­tral Mediter­ranean. The EU needs to en­gage with Egypt be­fore the flows be­come even big­ger and more dif­fi­cult to han­dle, he said.

The Min­is­ter stressed that the EU must also con­tinue with its work on re­form­ing the Com­mon Euro­pean Asy­lum Sys­tem, but also with its ef­forts in co­op­er­a­tion with third coun­tries to pre­vent migrants em­bark­ing on th­ese dan­ger­ous jour­neys. It is of ut­most im­por­tance that the EU achieves con­crete re­sults on mi­grant re­turns with the five African coun­tries of ori­gin – Niger, Nige­ria, Sene­gal, Mali and Ethiopia – with which a re­sults-ori­ented part­ner­ship frame­work agree­ment has been signed to mo­bilise and fo­cus EU action and re­sources in its ex­ter­nal work on man­ag­ing mi­gra­tion.

“The EU must be able to show our cit­i­zens that we can de­liver re­sults to­gether with our part­ner coun­tries, not just talk and doc­u­ments. We have not been achiev­ing suc­cess with re­gard to the re­turn and read­mis­sion of migrants who do not qual­ify for in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion,” the Min­is­ter said, adding that a Se­nior Of­fi­cials’ Meet­ing will be held in Fe­bru­ary 2017 to fol­low up on the Action Plan agreed dur­ing last Novem­ber’s Val­letta Sum­mit on Mi­gra­tion.

While in Malta, Fron­tex Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Leg­geri also met with An­drew Sey­chell, Po­lice Con­sul­tant and Na­tional Fron­tex Point of Con­tact, and Supt. Neville Xuereb, Malta’s mem­ber on Fron­tex’s man­age­ment board. He also had meet­ings with Brig. Jef­frey Curmi, AFM Com­man­der, with a num­ber of Mal­tese sol­diers who have served on Fron­tex mis­sions, and with the Mal­tese mem­bers of EU Coun­cil prepara­tory bod­ies that are rel­e­vant to Fron­tex.

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