Minister Evarist Bartolo appeals for peace in the Eastern Mediterranean during an official visit to Greece

Reference Number: PR201675, Press Release Issue Date: Sep 07, 2020
 
The Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Evarist Bartolo met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece Nikos Dendias, during an official visit to Athens where he had talks on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation in Libya and the impact of irregular migration on both countries.

Minister Bartolo said that Malta and Greece are both member states in the European Union, one of whose values is solidarity. He hoped that the relationship between the two countries would continue to be strengthened in the various fields, including maritime trade where half of Greek shipowners fly the Maltese flag.

Minister Bartolo said that Malta is the smallest state in the Mediterranean and in the European Union. This is a reality that brings with it many challenges. He explained that Malta suffered  many years of conquest suffered considerably to become a sovereign and neutral state. The last thing that  Malta wants is to go back in time and allow the country to be used in one way or another militarily by one country against another.

In this regard, the minister stressed that neutrality is intertwined in the Constitution and in the identity of the Maltese, as well it being also linked to the Maltese participation in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. That is why Malta will continue to advocate that any dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean can only be resolved through dialogue and in full compliance with the principles and provisions of international law.

He said the while compromise might hurt; any military conflict is sure to hurt much more. In this context, Minister Bartolo said that an agreement that does not humiliate anyone must be reached and reiterated Malta's call on all parties to stop all activities in the disputed areas, to resort to dialogue, and come to a peaceful solutions to their disputes.

Minister Bartolo said we must be careful on what action to take. We must ensure that whatever action is taken will not make things worse as happened in Libya eleven years ago. The NATO military attack wiped out Gaddafi but did not solve matters . Libya is crushed today, Libyans are suffering a lot, and for the first time in forty years it could end up with foreign military bases on its country.

Minister Bartolo added that although the ceasefire in Libya was an important step, the economic and social problems, which have continued to worsen with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, are creating more problems. The are providing fertile ground for human traffickers to continue to exploit people in vulnerable situations and increase the wave of irregular migration in the Mediterranean.

On irregular immigration, Minister Bartolo mentioned that in the last fifteen years, the countries of the European Union have taken only 8% of the irregular migrants who arrived in Malta. In the last four months alone, the Libyan Coast Guard has detained 3,500 irregular migrants from arriving in Malta, which it certainly cannot accommodate due to its small size.

Both sides agreed that this is a common challenge that requires a common solution from the European Union. They stressed that the European Union should do more to assist the Libyan Coast Guard in protecting its borders, help fight human traffickers and work for the development of the countries from which these irregular migrants depart.

During this visit, the two ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding promoting the training and exchange of best practices between diplomats and experts from Malta and Greece.

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