EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has again ruled accepting Malta’s request for the activation of the EU’s Temporary Protection Directive, that would off the island burden sharing by the other EU member states.
In comments prior to the start of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg this morning, Commissioner Malmstrom said: “It is still premature to activate the temporary protection directive and there are other ways to help Malta and Italy.”
Malta last week called for the Commission to trigger the mechanism. Italy followed suit on Friday. However the Commission refused to put forward a proposal prior to today’s meeting of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers. The directive will need a qualified majority to come into force, something which according to the Commission “does not exist yet.”
In her comments this morning Commissioner Malmstron noted that Germany has already offered to resettle 100 refugees from Malta and she said that she will be asking all the other member states to make similar offers to Malta.
Home Affairs Minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici who is representing Malta at this meeting, did not give any comments on his way to the meeting.
On the other hand, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said that Italy has made requests for burden sharing and “today we will see whether solidarity really exists or its just rhetoric.”
Rome sparked a diplomatic row last week when it announced it would grant six-month residency permits to more than 20,000 Tunisian migrants, which would allow them to travel freely in Europe's border-free Schengen area.
Officials issued the first permits on Sunday despite French and German objections, with Berlin calling the move "a blow to the spirit of Schengen", a 25-nation visa-free zone.
France tightened the control of documents at the border with Italy.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said his country could also reinforce its borders, although there has been no increase in the flow of migrants so far.
Friedrich told reporters in Luxembourg today that it was up to Italy to deal with the wave of migration and find a solution with Tunisian authorities to stop people from reaching Europe's shores.
"We cannot accept numerous economic migrants arriving in Europe through Italy. This is why we expect Italy to respect the existing legal rules and uphold its duty in discussions with the Tunisians, Friedrich said.
Around 26,000 undocumented migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, including some 21,000 who said they were from Tunisia.
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