The European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot announced in the European Parliament this week he will be presenting the framework for a pilot project for a burden sharing mechanism which will be tailored for Malta.

He was reacting to a question put by Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil during the first meeting of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on Wednesday.

The committee was debating the Commission’s proposal for the so-called Stockholm Programme which is a new programme setting out priority actions for the EU to establish an area of freedom, justice and security.

Dr Busuttil, who was recently elected to lead the EPP group in this committee, called on the Commissioner to focus first and foremost on implementing measures which have already been adopted, such as the EU Immigration Pact and its Solidarity clause.

“During the past years we came up with a number of good initiatives. Whilst it is good to think ahead, it is important to first implement agreements that have already been adopted.” Dr Busuttil said.

“We must implement the Immigration Pact and we must put into operation the pilot project on burden sharing as quickly as possible” he insisted.

Replying, Mr Barrot acknowledged the importance of implementation and underlined his insistence on the need for solidarity between member states through the internal resettlement of migrants among EU countries.

He said that in September he will be presenting the framework for a pilot project for a burden sharing mechanism which will be tailored for Malta. This is the first such project of its kind. Mr Barrot said that this project would be operated on an experimental basis in the hope that it could eventually become a permanent instrument of EU solidarity.

Specific reference to such a burden-sharing mechanism is also made in the Stockholm Programme.

Mr Barrot also reiterated his support for strengthening Frontex and for the idea of establishing regional offices of the agency.

The Commissioner underlined the importance of cooperation with third countries, notably Turkey and Libya. He said that he was urging these countries to embark on patrols to bring illegal departures to a halt, to set up systems for readmission of illegal immigrants and to establish reception centres for asylum seekers in their countries.

During the debate the issue of Italy’s new policy of turning back migrants to Libya and its newly adopted law on security measures in the area of immigration were harshly criticised by Socialist MEPs who claimed that Italy was violating its obligations and the rights of migrants through these measures.

In response Commissioner Barrot noted that the Commission was studying the compatibility of Italy’s security package with European law, whilst it was also carrying out a survey with Italian authorities on the exact facts surrounding those incidents where it turned migrants back to Libya. He said that the Commission was now waiting for Italy’s response.

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