Need for a re­form has never been clearer, Min­is­ter Abela tells EU civil lib­er­ties com­mit­tee

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Gabriel Schem­bri

Min­is­ter for In­ter­nal Af­fairs Carmelo Abela pre­sented the first of min­is­te­rial pri­or­i­ties for the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union Pres­i­dency yes­ter­day.

Ap­pear­ing be­fore the EU Com­mit­tee on Civil Lib­er­ties, LIBE, the min­is­ter was grilled by the MEPs who are also mem­bers of this com­mit­tee. Min­is­ter Abela spoke about the two main pri­or­i­ties re­lated to this sec­tor, mainly im­mi­gra­tion and se­cu­rity.

The grilling of cabi­net min­is­ters is a prac­tice held at the be­gin­ning of each EU pres­i­dency in or­der for the EU to be con­vinced that the agen­das for their re­spec­tive port­fo­lios are sat­is­fac­tory for the MEPs.

In his in­tro­duc­tory speech, Min­is­ter Abela said that the last 60 years of peace in Europe was the re­sult of a vi­sion by Euro­pean pi­o­neers. He said Malta is honoured to host the Coun­cil Pres­i­dency and said that Malta should com­mu­ni­cate the ben­e­fits of this union.

The min­is­ter said that the EU should com­mu­ni­cate and trans­late its poli­cies bet­ter so that the public in var­i­ous sec­tors is reached. “The need for a re­form has never been clearer and the events of last year only make this call for a change louder.”

He said six months is a short pe­riod but Malta is will­ing to move im­por­tant agen­das for­ward. “The fact that a num­ber of cabi­net mem­bers all served in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in the past, in­clud­ing the Prime Min­is­ter and leader of the Op­po­si­tion, will help dur­ing this Pres­i­dency,” he added.

While pre­sent­ing the pri­or­i­ties for this par­tic­u­lar sec­tor, fo­cus­ing on ter­ror­ism, Min­is­ter Abela said that mem­ber states need to work to­gether and said that Malta will keep this is­sue on top of its agenda.

On mi­gra­tion, he said that the EU should take a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach. The pro­posal is for EASO to be­come a ful­lyfledged agency. The min­is­ter said that the EU should work to­gether to have an ef­fec­tive agency.

In its Pres­i­dency, Malta will fol­low up the agenda agreed upon to as­sist Italy and Greece. Mr Abela said that EU coun­tries should make sure that the re­la­tion­ships with coun­tries of ori­gin should be im­proved and EU coun­tries should make sure that those who are not el­i­gi­ble for asy­lum, should be sent back.

The meet­ing started with a mo­ment of si­lence to re­mem­ber those who were killed in the Ber­lin at­tacks. This is the first meet­ing since the at­tacks in Ber­lin Christ­mas mar­ket in which 12 peo­ple were killed and some 40 peo­ple were in­jured.

MEPs grill min­is­ters on mi­gra­tion and cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions

Na­tion­al­ist MEP Roberta Met­sola was the first to ask Min­is­ter Abela about the Dublin re­form and what spe­cific pro­pos­als will the govern­ment present with re­gards to mi­gra­tion. She also asked Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici on the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal. Dr Met­sola asked what new pro­pos­als the Mal­tese pres­i­dency will present to tackle such is­sues. Dr Bon­nici was also asked about the IIP scheme and how most of the 700 ap­pli­cants come from for­mer Soviet coun­tries.

One MEP said that the EU does not ex­pect Malta to come up with north­ern bor­ders so­lu­tions, but the EU ex­pects talks on Euro­pean sol­i­dar­ity.

MEP Miriam Dalli asked Min­is­ter Abela what the pri­or­i­ties on mi­gra­tion will be. She said fig­ures of relocation are very low and asked if the min­is­ter be­lieves that these will ever be reached.

A Por­tuguese MEP asked about the Panama Pa­pers again. The min­is­ter was told that the fact that the min­is­ter in­volved will be chair­ing the En­ergy Com­mit­tee will af­fect the whole EU di­rectly. She also asked about the IIP scheme and if the govern­ment is car­ry­ing out the re­quired in­ves­ti­ga­tions and asked for the list of those ac­quir­ing the ‘golden pass­port’.

An MEP said he had vis­ited Malta and was shown around the de­ten­tion cen­tres. He said that af­ter the visit, he could not help but no­tice the news about cor­rup­tion in the coun­try.

Min­is­ter Carmelo Abela, re­ply­ing, said that the ba­sis of the mi­gra­tion poli­cies should be sol­i­dar­ity. He ex­plained that as he said in pre­vi­ous dec­la­ra­tions, there needs to be a holis­tic ap­proach. “Mi­gra­tion has a hu­man face and we need to re­mem­ber this all the time,” he added while in­sist­ing that the mi­gra­tion is­sue is a cred­i­bil­ity test for Europe.

Min­is­ter Owen Bon­nici spoke about the EPPO agree­ment and pledged that he will act as an hon­est bro­ker to make sure that this of­fice takes place. On ter­ror­ism, the min­is­ter said that Europe is com­mit­ted to im­ple­ment mea­sures al­ready agreed upon.

He re­ferred to the ques­tions re­lated to the Panama Pa­pers. “In my role, I am dis­cussing is­sues on be­half of all the 28 EU mem­ber states. We will push for­ward the agenda on anti-money laun­der­ing and fraud.

“We are com­mit­ted to reg­is­ter progress on these two in­stru­ments,” he said.

On cor­rup­tion, the min­is­ter said that lo­cally, the govern­ment has pre­sented mea­sures that deal with this prob­lem. The min­is­ter never re­ferred to lo­cal cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions, nor did he re­ply di­rectly to the ques­tions re­lated to the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal and the in­volve­ment of Min­is­ter Kon­rad Mizzi.

The two min­is­ters had 10 min­utes each to re­ply.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.