PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PROMOTION: Less surveillance by EU military operation in the Central Mediterranean encouraging smugglers and traffickers to be more daring, Minister Abela warns EU

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela, told his EU colleagues on Monday that the absence of EUNAVFORMED’s naval assets in its area of operation is not helping maintain security in the Mediterranean. He reiterated the strategic importance of the operation, which was established in 2015 to contribute to wider EU efforts to disrupt the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks in the Southern Central Mediterranean and prevent the further loss of migrants’ lives at sea.

Participating at an EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg City, Minister Abela took his cue from the 6th South EU Summit that convened in Valletta last Friday, pointing out that an important element of the Valletta Declaration issued at the end of that Summit is security in the Mediterranean Sea, which is crucial for Europe’s own security and stability.

The aerial operations being conducted as part of Operation SOPHIA are relatively ineffective to break the smugglers’ models, the Foreign Minister observed. We are noticing a surge in the number of crossings, therefore an increase in human trafficking � we are risking more tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea. Less surveillance in the area is encouraging smugglers and traffickers to be more daring in their operations. Reinforcements of aerial surveillance are warranted in the central Mediterranean route, even at the early mornings, when most of the departures happen, at least over the summer period. He stressed that this being an EU-wide challenge, it is only through solidarity, as well as through a combined effort and responsibility-sharing by all stakeholders, that it can be addressed.

The Foreign Ministers also discussed ways to improve the effectiveness of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Noting that, over the past years, the CFSP has been strengthened considerably, Minister Abela suggested that the EU should make better use of its leverage when it comes to interacting with third countries. Partnerships should be based on conditionality, as this would allow us to obtain the desired results, he said, while encouraging closer cooperation on the CFSP among the European institutions and also between these institutions and Member States.

For a part of the Council meeting, the EU Foreign Ministers were joined by the bloc’s Defence Ministers for a comprehensive discussion on the Union’s Global Strategy, three years after its launch. They took stock of progress made and reflected on future perspectives. Ministers may give guidance on the next steps, in particular on the priorities.

The Foreign Ministers also discussed the situation in Sudan, in light of recent developments in the country. Over lunch, they had an exchange of views with the Minister of Foreign Affairs or Jordan, Ayman Safadi, focusing on recent developments in the Middle East region.

Photo captions – MFTP:

pr191341a: Minister Carmelo Abela with (l) Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and (r) Jean Asselborn, Luxembourgish Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, and Minister for Immigration and Asylum.

pr191341b: Minister Carmelo Abela with Helen McEntee, Irish Minister of State at the Foreign Ministry.

Source: Government of Malta