EU leaders united as Trump overshadows summit
(VALLETTA) - EU leaders ended a summit in Malta Friday calling for unity, strength and confidence in facing difficult global challenges including the behaviour of the new U.S. administration.
The leaders of the 28 Member States were in Malta - which currently holds the EU presidency - to discuss Europe's response to the new Trump administration, as well as migration issues, and the future of Europe after Brexit.
During a working lunch discussion centred on the future of the transatlantic partnership, leaders expressed concern on some of the positions taken by the new U.S. administration. Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat voiced particular concern at "some attitudes being adopted by the administration".
This in no way reflected a sense of anti-Americanism, stressed Mr Muscat at a press conference following the summit. The EU needs to engage with the United States just the same, he said, but "we cannot stay silent where there are principles involved. And as in any good relationship, we will speak very clearly where we think that those principles are being trampled on."
The summit also debated the external dimension of migration. They adopted the Malta Declaration, which focuses on measures to stem the flow of migration from Libya to Italy.
"We also sent a message that one can tackle migration from a level-headed point of view". said Mr Muscat.
In the declaration they noted that on the Central Mediterranean route over 181,000 irregular migrants arrived in 2016, and the number of persons dead or missing at sea reached a new record every year since 2013.
With spring approaching, leaders decided to take additional action to significantly reduce migratory flows, break the business model of smugglers and save lives. In particular, they agreed to step up cooperation with the Libyan authorities.
The EU confirmed its support for the Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord backed by the United Nations. They also declared readiness to cooperate with Libyan regional and local communities as well as international organisations active in the country.
The EU will train, equip and support Libyan coastguards to stop people smugglers and increase search and rescue operations. They will also deliver economic assistance to local communities in Libya to improve their situation and help them shelter strength with migrants.
Leaders emphasised the need to help reduce the pressure on Libya's land border by enhancing Libya's border management capacity and by working with neighbouring countries.
"We welcomed the Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by the Italian and Libyan Prime Ministers as another important and encouraging sign that things are about to change for the better", said President Donald Tusk at the press conference after the working session on migration. "The European Union and our actions will support Italy and Libya. It is our shared responsibility."
Finally, in the afternoon, the leaders discussed the future of the EU with 27 member states, as they looked forward to the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties on 25 March 2017.
Faced with global developments, Mr Tusk said Europe had no other option but "to regain confidence in its own strength".
He has called on the leaders to stay united: "It must be made crystal clear that the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China. Only together can we be fully independent."