The Malta Independent 30 May 2024, Thursday
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Busuttil Sees immigration report passed through, blasts Maroni

Malta Independent Thursday, 23 April 2009, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

Maltese European parliamentarian Simon Busuttil on Tuesday saw his hard-fought report on a Common Immigration Policy for Europe being passed through parliament with a healthy majority. He also seized the occasion to blast Italian Home Affairs Minister Roberto Maroni’s “shameful” handling of last weekend’s migrant standoff between Malta and Italy as a “political gimmick” concocted up in the lead-up to the June MEP elections.

Dr Busuttil’s immigration policy report was passed on Tuesday by a vote of 485 in favour, 111 against and 19 abstentions, following what have been described as “intense” negotiations on a number of hot issues between the EP’s political groups.

The report warns that “unless Europe moves urgently ahead in forging a common immigration policy, it risks being overtaken by events” and that “dramatic events around us have proved that we are already late”.

Commenting on the report’s adoption, Dr Busuttil observed that the contentions raised during negotiations show that a true common immigration policy remains elusive since political views differ on where the EU should go on the issue, and indeed how far it should go.

Welcoming the report’s adoption, Dr Busuttil remarked how the text charts the way forward for the fledging European immigration policy which had been moving in fits and starts over the past decade, observing, “What we have today is a fragmented policy. My report calls for a coherent policy”.

Among the report’s key points are the calls for the human tragedy taking place as a result of illegal immigration to be stopped once and for all, and for the burden-sharing mechanism envisaged in the Immigration Pact to be rapidly implemented and transformed into a binding and permanent instrument.

The report calls for the emphasis on returns to be strengthened and for third country nationals illegally staying in the EU to leave or be returned, while also specifying that all EU agreements with third countries must include chapters on immigration.

Additionally, the report urges for Frontex to be further strengthened both in terms of its financial resources as well as in terms of its capacity to act, and for a redoubling of efforts in the fight against organised crime and human trafficking.

Dr Busuttil says he managed to repeal a series of amendments proposed by Socialist, Green and Communist groups, which he says would have slowed down the return of illegal immigrants, significantly increased obligations for integration, made detention a last resort and limited cooperation with third countries.

The left-wing parliamentary block, he recounts, still managed to insert a reference calling for migrants to have the opportunity to vote – a hotly contested issue strongly resisted by the EPP group and Dr Busuttil.

“I did my best to remove the unnecessary call for voting rights for migrants, which in any case remains exclusively a matter for individual countries to decide. However, the Socialist majority prevailed on this,” he says of the Socialist and Green successful move to shoot down a last minute attempt tabled by Dr Busuttil to remove the voting reference.

Maroni’s stance “shameful”

Addressing Tuesday’s plenary session at which the report was presented, Dr Busuttil labelled Dr Maroni’s attempt to shift Italy’s legal responsibilities onto Malta as “shameful”, and dismissed them as political gimmicks intended to play the populist card just a few weeks before the European Parliament elections.

Dr Busuttil observed yesterday how the MV Pinar case “showed more than ever that a common European approach on migration was necessary and that in the absence of a common approach, countries ended up trying to shed their responsibilities and pointing fingers at each other without getting any closer to a true solution”.

He adds, “It is shameful that a country of 60 million tries to shift its legal responsibilities onto a country of less than half a million,” adding he hoped this was just an isolated case.

“We can see through political gimmicks. But that does not make them acceptable,” Dr Busuttil told the plenary session.

On the other hand, he welcomed the constructive spirit in which the Maltese and Italian prime ministers intervened to unblock the situation and settle, commenting, “Thanks to their intervention, reason prevailed over gimmicks, common sense prevailed over intransigence and the rule of law prevailed over the law of the jungle.”

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