The Malta Independent 24 October 2017, Tuesday

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

Gabriel Schembri Thursday, 12 January 2017, 08:56 Last update: about 11 months ago

Minister for Internal Affairs Carmelo Abela is presenting the first of ministerial priorities for the Council of the European Union Presidency which kicked-off with an official ceremony yesterday.  

Appearing before the EU Committee on Civil Liberties, LIBE this morning, the Minister will also be grilled by the MEPs who are also members of this committee. Minister Ablea will be speaking about the two main priorities related to this sector, mainly immigration and security.

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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 for EASO to become a fully-fledged agency, the Minister said that the EU should work together to have an effective agency.

As a Presidency, Malta will follow up the agenda agreed upon to assist Italy and Greece. Carmelo Abela said that countries should make sure that the relationships with countries of origin should be improved and 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 where 12 people were killed and some 40 people were injured.

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.

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.
Owen 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 us 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, in replying, said that the basis of the migration policies should be solidarity. He explained that in previous declarations, he had said that 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 issue son 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 also. 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 ten minutes each to reply. 

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