Learn­ing tricks

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri and Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

“We look for­ward to learn­ing some of your tricks on how to achieve our tar­gets,” Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told EU For­eign Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Fed­er­ica Mogherini at Castille yes­ter­day Photo: Michael Camil­leri

The Mal­tese gov­ern­ment did not take instructions from any coun­try to refuse per­mis­sion for a Soviet tanker on its way to Syria to re­fuel in Malta, For­eign Minister Ge­orge Vella said yes­ter­day, stat­ing that Malta took this de­ci­sion on its own.

In­ter­na­tional and local me­dia re­ported last week that the gov­ern­ment ini­tially gave per­mis­sion to a Rus­sian mil­i­tary re­plen­ish­ment fuel tanker to berth and re­fuel in Malta on its way to Syria, but then with­drew the per­mit fol­low­ing Amer­i­can and Bri­tish pres­sure.

A note ver­bal is­sued on 20 Oc­to­ber and pub­lished by the me­dia shows that the gov­ern­ment had given diplo­matic clear­ance to the RFS Dubna to en­ter Malta be­tween 4 and 6 Novem­ber, but later with­drew the per­mis­sion.

Ad­dress­ing the me­dia in the pres­ence of EU Com­mis­sioner for For­eign Af­fairs Fed­er­ica Mogherini, Dr Vella said Malta did not want to be part of a “war ma­chine.”

But he in­sisted that this does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that Malta will not al­low Rus­sian ves­sels – not war­ships – to re­fuel in Malta should they re­quest to do so in the fu­ture.

“Con­trary to re­ports, there was no coun­try that told Malta what to do. We are wise enough not to be part of any coun­try go­ing into Syria to per­pe­trate the atroc­i­ties that are hap­pen­ing there.” He also said that the de­ci­sion was driven by the hu­man­i­tar­ian wish not to see the sit­u­a­tion in Syria worsen

“The de­ci­sion not to re­fuel the Rus­sian fleet in the Mediter­ranean was sim­ply taken on our own re­spon­si­bil­ity, fully con­scious of our Con­sti­tu­tional con­straints.”

For her part, Com­mis­sioner Mogherini said that there was no EU di­rec­tive in­struct­ing mem­ber states not to sup­port the Rus­sian war ves­sel.

Pres­i­dency

Dur­ing the meet­ing with For­eign Af­fairs Minister Ge­orge Vella, the two dis­cussed a num­ber of im­por­tant topics, in­clud­ing mi­gra­tion, se­cu­rity, the uni­fi­ca­tion of Cyprus, and the Mediter­ranean. Dur­ing the meet­ing, the two shared their ideas as to the ob­jec­tives of Malta’s Pres­i­dency.

“When we saw that this flotilla was head­ing to­wards Syria, we de­cided not to be a part of this war ma­chine.”

For her part, Fed­er­ica Mogherini said that Malta is a bridge be­tween the EU and Africa. She spoke of op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with Africa on part­ner­ships, growth and mi­gra­tion. The Mal­tese Pres­i­dency will also be used to pre­pare for the next EU-Africa summit. Since tak­ing up her post as EU Com­mis­sioner, she said, she has seen mi­gra­tion and Libya jump up­wards in EU pri­or­i­ties, out of po­lit­i­cal choice and not be­cause the sit­u­a­tion was forced.

“I am sure the Mal­tese Pres­i­dency will help us face these chal­lenges.”

Mi­gra­tion

Asked by The Malta In­de­pen­dent how the EU plans to tackle the sheer num­ber of mi­grant deaths in the Mediter­ranean, the EU Com­mis­sioner said that “the EU has es­tab­lished oper­a­tions in the Mediter­ranean, and its first pur­pose is to dis­man­tle hu­man traf­fick­ing oper­a­tions at sea and on land. We are in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters.” She said that some sus­pected smug­glers have al­ready been ar­rested, and this has al­ready started to cre­ate dis­in­cen­tives. As you know this op­er­a­tion is also sav­ing lives, and al­low­ing others to do the same, she said.

As a hu­man be­ing, I felt deeply ashamed two or three years ago, when there were peo­ple dy­ing in the Mediter­ranean and the EU as such was not present, and I feel proud with every sin­gle life we man­age to save.

She said that what is hap­pen­ing in the Mediter­ranean is just the tip of the ice­berg, as there are peo­ple dy­ing in the desert and on the shores.

She also spoke of co­op­er­a­tion with coun­tries of tran­sit, like Niger, where the EU is now be­gin­ning to see re­sults mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for hu­man traf­fick­ers.

Dur­ing the press con­fer­ence, the Minister and Com­mis­sioner also told the press about their dis­cus­sion held ear­lier yes­ter­day morn­ing. The Minister put a lot of em­pha­sis on the link be­tween the Mediter­ranean and Europe, and that the EU must re­alise that the Mediter­ranean is part and par­cel of Europe, that EU se­cu­rity de­pends on the Mediter­ranean. He said that aside from prob­lems, the re­gion also of­fers many op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Minister Ge­orge Vella Photo Michael Camil­leri

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