Member states should be the ones to decide when to lift their country’s travel bans, MEPs David Casa and Miriam Dalli agree, acknowledging the EU should also ensure a coordinated approach. 

In a meeting with journalists organised by Malta’s European Parliament Office, the two MEPs said the issue was top of the agenda for many, with theories on how and when flight bans would be lifted making rounds across the bloc. 

Despite this, the Labour and Nationalist MEPs both noted that the EU measures should not replace those by national governments. 

“Every decision needs to be taken based on dialogue and through a step-by-step approach. The recommendations cannot replace the government’s decisions,” Casa said. 

On her part, Dalli noted that every member state knew what the particular situation in the country was so decisions are taken based on the different needs. 

Public health, she insisted, should always remain a priority, especially when making such decisions. 

The pair’s comments came a few hours after the European Commission unveiled a set of guidelines for a phased restart of travel in the summer.

The government has so far refused to discuss its plans for the lifting of the flights ban, with Health Minister Chris Fearne repeatedly refusing to discuss the matter saying it is still too early to say. 

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has proposed the idea of safe travel bubbles during a virtual conference with other EU ministers, though she would not comment on when the flights ban will be lifted and how. 

All flights were suspended from March 21 onwards. The flight ban has since been extended to the end of May.

No discrimination on vaccine procurement

The two MEPs also agreed that the EU should ensure there is no discrimination if and when there is a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“We want to make sure there is joint procurement because ultimately we don’t want smaller member states whose negotiating power is less than bigger countries to suffer. We need to ensure that this proposal is not just a statement on paper,” Dalli said.

Casa agreed, saying that the EU also had to plan for the possibility that the vaccine is developed outside Europe and therefore would need to have mechanisms in place to ensure there is no discrimination. 

'We have been left alone' - Dalli

Meanwhile, on migration, Dalli reiterated the government’s criticism that Malta has not been provided any support in dealing with the migration crisis, saying requests for assistance have not been taken up by any member states.

“We are not seeing any solidarity when it comes to the migration issue. We have it on paper but this is not reflected in concrete action. Malta is being left alone when it comes to migration,” she said. 

On Malta’s decision to no longer commit any military assets to Operation Irini, a naval mission launched to enforce the arms embargo on war-torn Libya, Dalli said this was a way for a small member state to “make its voice heard”. 

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