Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta call for EU to guarantee fair distribution of responsibility for migration

News - 2021.3.20

The text was agreed at the meeting held on Saturday in Athens between the Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and his counterparts from Italy, Luciana Lamorgese; Greece, Notis Mitarachi (Immigration Policy and Asylum); Cyprus, Nikos Nouris; and Malta, Byron Camilleri. The meeting is a continuation of the various telematic meetings these five ministers have been holding in recent months.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska stated that "Spain, in coordination with the other MED5 countries, and in permanent contact with the other Member States and EU institutions, maintains a negotiating position that backs the defence of a common European policy on migration, asylum and borders, that respects the principles and values of the European Union where the fair distribution of responsibility and solidarity are a reality".

The joint declaration underlines that the meeting in Athens has served to "continue consolidating" the common "negotiating position" on the upcoming European Pact on Migration and Asylum. "Six months after the official presentation of the negotiations on the new European Pact on Migration and Asylum and following several documents outlining the common position of our countries, our main concerns still remain", indicates the document.

The five Ministers for Home Affairs/Migration agreed to highlight that they continue to observe "considerable imbalances in the legislative texts proposed, which are still far from being fully governed by the principle of solidarity and the fair distribution of responsibility, as enshrined in Article 80 of the founding Treaty on European Union".

In this regard, the joint declaration reiterates the "strong request" from Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta for a "genuine and necessary balance between solidarity and responsibility", and underlines that "in its current format, the Pact does not offer sufficient guarantees to Member States on the front line".

"We must guarantee effective European solidarity with regard to all migrants and asylum-seekers, regardless of the way in which they have entered EU territory, taking into account the need to establish a mechanism for automatic and compulsory resettlement", indicated the ministers in the declaration.

Cooperation with countries of origin and transit

The five countries also stress the need for real and effective cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Only by increasing cooperation with the countries of origin and transit will we be able to avoid primary and secondary movements, the trafficking of migrants and the loss of life, as well as promote an effective return policy", states the text. As regards border management, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta are committed to "greater surveillance at origin and the prevention of illegal entry".

As regards the proposal on border asylum procedures, the five countries state that this would further "exacerbate the situation, which is already unfavourable, of the Member States on the front line". "This does not take into account the realities on the ground in terms of procedures and deadlines and is a disproportionate burden on EU borders which cannot transform themselves into closed transit areas", states the joint declaration.

As regards returns and repatriation, the text underlines that "it is important for everyone that the Member States, particularly those on the front line, establish a European return mechanism managed in a centralised fashion, coordinated by the European Commission and also supported by such EU agencies as FRONTEX, with the aim of facilitating returns at the request of the Member States affected.

Lastly, the Ministers for Home Affairs and Migration of Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta point to the need to negotiate all the Commission's proposals in a unitary fashion, since they are clearly "related from a legal, practical and also a political perspective".

"We remain committed to working to find viable and coordinated solutions to our common challenges, based on the positive elements of the proposed Pact. The front line Member States cannot be expected to manage the migratory pressure that affects the European Union as a whole", concludes the declaration.

Vice-President of the Commission

The meeting between ministers began with a working dinner on Friday. Saturday's meeting gathered together Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Luciana Lamorgese, Notis Mitarachi, Nikos Nouris and Byron Camilleri in Athens, which began with a working breakfast, and included the presence of the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas. The day was divided into two working sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, separated by a lunch attended by the MED5 ministers and the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

The Spanish minister declared that the meeting in Greece was "fundamental to strengthen our negotiating position, maintain our union steadfast and speak with a single voice in defence of the interests of the countries on the front line". "We are united in defending a common European migration, asylum and border policy that respects the principles and the values of the European Union", he said.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska also stressed the need for the future Pact to effectively provide an external dimension. "For Spain, cooperation with third countries is an essential element for achieving effective results in the fight against illegal immigration", he indicated.

The Spanish minister also expressed that, within the commitment to prevention at origin, it is necessary "to provide genuine political and financial muscle to the external migratory dimension". He brought up, to this end, the Spanish Team Europe proposal, presented at the Foreign and Home Affairs Council of the EU held on Monday, which seeks to join the forces of the European Commission and Member States to implement cooperation and operational support projects in the priority countries for migratory routes.

Non official translation