The Malta Independent 23 June 2018, Saturday

Updated: EC says ‘Malta behaved according to international rules’ in Aquarius case

Wednesday, 13 June 2018, 18:40 Last update: about 9 days ago

EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker told Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that according to the Commission’s appraisal, Malta behaved according to international rules in the Aquarius case.

Malta and Italy have been at odds since  two days ago, when 629 migrants on the Aquarius rescue ship, were stuck in international waters off the coast of Italy and Malta, both of which denied it entry. Spain ended up offering the Aquarius safe harbour, with Italy saying that Malta should offer more help.

Prime Minister Muscat briefed President Juncker about the bilateral relations with Italy and expressed his hope that these would be normalised. They also discussed the pending Commission proposals on the migration package and the next steps to be taken.

In a seperate statement this evening, the Maltese government said that Italy's Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Danilo Toninelli's claims that Malta cannot patrol its Search and Rescue Region and that unless it does so, Italy will take it over, are wrong.

"Such a statement has no legal and political basis and unfortunately shows that the Minister is either misinformed or wants to stir a useless controversy," a government statement read.

"It must be made clear that Malta fulfils its obligations and abides by all applicable conventions including its obligations within our Search and Rescue Region. In the last years Malta has invested millions in upgrading its equipment and has all the necessary means to coordinate all SAR events inside its area."

"During the past years Malta has never ignored a single case inside Maltese SRR. In addition, the Maltese Government does not receive any funds for the control of its SAR area. SAR is a service rendered by the state without any payments. Any funds received were funds related to external border control under EU funds which has nothing to do with SAR. It must also be noted that Italy receives millions from this same fund."

"The Italian Minister's statements may be interpreted as though this issue has nothing to do with migration but is rather a territorial issue. It is a baseless and frivolous attempt to try to impinge on the sovereignty of a neighbouring country."


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