23 August 2006

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Business Today

EU steps up momentum after Libya opens to dialogue

Karl Stagno-Navarra

Libya’s announced readiness to meet at ministerial level with Malta and Italy to discuss illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, has reportedly prompted the Finnish EU Presidency to correspond with all member states, requesting a list of resources that could be made available to assist in a possible “wide-scale” mission in the region.
Sources in Brussels have revealed that the EU Presidency is actively working on a diplomatic strategy, to draw up a list of resources that could be deployed in the Mediterranean to assist distressed member states - including Malta – in dealing with the constant flow of illegal immigration.
Diplomats explained that the constant pressure put up by Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece has enticed Helsinki to circulate correspondence amongst the EU 25, requesting a response for the possible supply of air, land and sea resources to be deployed in the Mediterranean in what is being defined as the first ever “EU response team”.
As Spain’s Jose-Louis Rodriguez Zapatero is due to fly to Helsinki today for talks with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen to request EU aid for the distraught Canary Islands, both Valletta and Rome have increased their pressure on Brussels and the Presidency for immediate action.
A series of telephone conversations between Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg and Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Amato during these last 48 hours, have proved to be very productive, particularly in the preparation of an agenda for a tri-partite discussion with Libyan Interior Minister Al Obeidi in Valletta in the first week of September, specifically to discuss solutions to the illegal immigration problem in the Mediterranean.
Concurrently, other telephone discussions were held with EU Commissioner Franco Frattini, whilst diplomats at the foreign ministry are reportedly pushing for a date for Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi to meet Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli for further discussions.
Though dates have not yet been established as to when the Mediterranean patrols will kick off South of Malta’s search and rescue zone, a third and supposedly last Frontex technical meeting is expected to be held in Malta next week.


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