Updated with videos, statement by Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo

The European Union's High Representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell on Wednesday indicated that he has poor knowledge of Malta's call for the EU to  deploy a humanitarian mission to Libya and deliver €100 million worth of food, medicines and medical equipment before the situation there worsens, causing a wave of migrants.

The appeal was made to the EU last week by Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo. Bartolo had said the issue would be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers to be held on Wednesday.

Borrell made no mention of Malta's call when he addressed a press conference following that video conference meeting. 

He only said that there could be no sustainable solution to the migration problem in Libya until the country was stabilised, and that was not something which was happening tomorrow. 

Josep Borrell answers a question about Malta's proposal, and appears to know nothing of it.

He said that the ministers had noted that international appeals and the threat of coronavirus had not stopped the warring parties in Libya, and fighting had actually intensified. 

The EU, he said, need to increase its engagement to bring about a humanitarian truce to deal with coronavirus but also for the political process to start and the conflict to end. 

Borrell was asked by a German reporter whether the proposal by Malta had been discussed and whether help would be sent to Libya.

He, however, appeared to be unaware of the details. Malta, he said, had raised legitimate concerns about the possibility of having to face a wave of migrants coming from Libya and the risk that as a result, its health systems could be overwhelmed because of coronavirus. However, he said, Malta had not asked for a help package and no decision had been taken about this.

It was then pointed out to him that the question was about help to Libya. 

Borrell said the EU had been reorienting resources already allocated to Libya in order that it not only improve its healthcare, but also its coast guard. He also pointed out that countries of the Visigrad group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) had given €35m to Libya to improve its capacity to fight coronavirus. 

Minister still says ministers agreed aid to Libya

In a statement Foreign Minister Bartolo insisted that agreement on an aid package to Libya, as suggested by Malta, had been agreed by the ministers although he made no mention of a humanitarian mission or the €100m. He mentioned and thanked Josep Borrell among those who he said had backed Malta.

In a statement, the Foreign Minister said that the Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, had explained during the ministerial meeting that humanitarian assistance would come from existing financial resources distributed to international organisations in Libya. 

Varhelyi also mentioned €35m handed to the Libyan coast guard, the ministry said.

Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo said this was a step forward but much more difficult work remained to be done for Libya to recover. Malta, he said, would continue to work for a permanent political solution in Libya. He also reiterated the need for solidarity among the EU member states on the migration problem so that Malta was not left to shoulder this burden alone.  

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