Leaders of nine southern European countries have called for the European Union (EU) to finalize a new migration and asylum deal before next year's European Parliament elections, and to step up efforts to prevent departures from North Africa, reported Xinhua.
The needs of front-line EU countries that receive the bulk of migrants must be "adequately met" by, for example, boosting surveillance operations at the EU's external borders to break up human trafficking networks, said a joint statement issued at the end of Friday's Med9 Summit in Malta.
Apart from Malta, countries participating in the one-day meeting included France, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.
They also called for a new approach to improve the rate of returns of rejected asylum seekers and other third-country nationals who have no legal right to remain in the EU, and to address the root causes of irregular migration while respecting the protection of fundamental rights and international obligations.
"It is important to cooperate with international partners and neighbors, looking out for each other and working together to solve our problems," Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela told a press conference at the end of the summit.
Abela said the EU's relations with the Southern Mediterranean region needed "a reset," so that the relationship goes beyond aid and helps countries to make better use of their tech potential.
"Ultimately, the issue needs to be addressed at the source, so we need more robust assistance in countries of origin," he said.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said it was time to tackle migration "concretely, structurally and hopefully definitively."
"We might be the first to be overtaken by the migration crisis, but this will have a spillover effect on many other countries," she said.
- Med9 Summit