The Malta Independent 23 July 2019, Tuesday

European Commission ‘not informed’ of any Malta-Italy trade-off of migrants for oil rights

Thursday, 17 August 2017, 10:00 Last update: about 3 years ago

The European Commission, through Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, has informed that the EC “has not been informed of any agreement” between Malta and Italy.

He was answering a European Parliamentary Question over persistent and recurring rumours that Malta and Italy had reached a secret pact that has seen Malta exchanging certain oil exploration rights in return for Italy picking up Malta’s share of the migration burden in the Central Mediterranean.

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At the end of May Italian MEP Mario Borghezio had asked the European Commission in a question tabled in the European Parliament:

“Leaks published in the Maltese and Italian press have fuelled suspicions that a tacit agreement was reached last year between the former Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, and the current Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, who is being investigated as part of the Panama Papers enquiry.

“That agreement is said to have ended the dispute between Italy and Malta over oil rights in the seas to the south-east of Sicily, effectively giving Italy the green light to conduct geological surveys and drilling there. In exchange, a formal undertaking is said to have been given — and this is supported by the huge imbalance between the two countries in terms of migrant arrivals — not to involve Malta in recovery operations regarding the many migrants crossing from Libya to Europe.

“If there really is such an agreement, as that facts would suggest, this would constitute a serious breach of the agreements on the admission of migrants, which are binding on all the Member States.

“Will the Commission check whether such an agreement has been reached and, if so, say what it is considering to prevent this blatant violation of EU rules?”

With respect to the actions undertaken by the European Union on the migratory situation in the Central Mediterranean, the Commission referred the MEP to the action plan on measures to support Italy, reduce pressure along the Central Mediterranean route and increase solidarity, adopted by the Commission on 4 July 2017.

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