My interview with Professor Roderick Pace, Director of the Institute for European Studies and Jean Monnet Chair, University of Malta.
1. In general how do you assess EU approach towards migration crisis in Central Mediterranean and what does it mean for Malta? What are the biggest obstacles of solving this, disunity of the EU, problematic situation in countries like Libya, combination of it?
Migration in the central Mediterranean has never really relented. With the closure or drastic reduction of the Turkish route through Greece, it has picked on again. It is not only Libya but also Egypt which are key transit countries. Libya is still unstable and the authorities in Tripoli do not have full control of the country or its long sea and land borders. So there are limitations on what the EU can do to stem the tide. Egypt has control over its borders but cooperation with that country is not easy. We need to tackle the problem further south in the Sahel and sub-saharan Africa. These measures will take a lot of time to begin to be effective and they may not be effective at all in the end. At the EU level we need to strengthen the external borders and register whoever comes in. However, all EU countries need to work together on relocation and repatriation in cases where requests for asylum are not justified. Responsibility sharing and solidarity is important as otherwise the burden falls disproportionately on some states. Also, today it is the southern European countries who are affected by the phenomenon and tomorrow it could be some other countries which are hit by some other kind of event that requires them to call on the help and solidarity of the other member states. The EU had better stand together or else face more destabilizing forces in the future with each member state trying to do it alone. Disunity holds the risk of member states falling under external hegemony as in the past. Solidarity is also a kind of insurance policy for future adverse developments. It is good that states can count on it if in the future they are affected badly by some major phenomenon. We also need to safeguard lives in the Mediterranean where record after record has been broken in the loss of life at sea. People and migrants are human beings who deserve better treatment in the 21st Century then what we “advanced” Europeans often give them. They are entitled to their human rights and we must avoid diminishing the value of human rights by admitting exceptions, i.e. that rights are there for everyone except migrants. Migrants are crossing the sea irregularly but this does not give us the right to treat them badly. Europeans have suffered tyranny and lack of rights in the past and many peoples supported us and showed us solidarity. Some opened their countries to immigration to welcome persecuted Europeans to their shores and help them start a new life. But memories of our past seem to be fading rapidly and what most people see today are themselves, and after that themselves again.
2. Malta’s EU Presidency comes after Slovak one. How is Slovak EU Presidency and related topics like Bratislava process and effective solidarity perceived in Malta?
The Bratislava process is seen as important by many people and the Catholic Church and other European Christian churches have made ample reference to it in a document which COMECE and CEC have presented to the Maltese government at the start of the Presidency. My thoughts are that we should not engage in some new Orwellian rephrasing of meanings. We must accept that solidarity means solidarity. I thought that Orwellianism disappeared when the communist regimes came down, never to be resurrected again. We Europeans will play with fire if we undermine the meaning of solidarity and tell our citizens we do not need anyone’s help – and that we are not ready to help our fellow member states. It would be shortsighted, selfish and arrogant. I am not sure I can understand what is meant by “effective solidarity” – an ineffective solidarity is no solidarity at all. There was a time when Europeans often closed ranks to help each other in times of trouble. We need to return to those times. As for the Slovak Presidency we think it worked well and that the Maltese Presidency is a continuation of it, addressing the newer concerns that have since come up such as the future of Europe after BREXIT, which the Bratislava declaration and roadmap are an important start toward resolving.
3. Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat said that the apparent reversal of US policy towards the EU is a source of concern. President Donald Tusk even added Donald Trump to threats the EU faces. What kind of approach do you expect from the EU towards Trump’s administration and vice versa, what would be maybe your advise to the EU regarding it approach to Trump?
In the face of Trump the EU states had better close ranks and quickly develop the European defence component to make sure that they can rely on their own means. Trump by his words and actions is indirectly inviting external powers to try their luck with the EU while he and his administration seem to be dead set on weakening the EU and the Euro. Trump wants to put America first but if every state reacts by doing the same we would only encourage greater inter-state rivalry, further weaken multilateralism, increase trade and economic wars and the struggle for power. Europe is in danger unless it unites more to present a strong and united front against this ideology. So the answer to America First is a more United Europe ever ready for dialogue and multilateralism in the world, including (if possible) the Trans-Atlantic Relationship. Trump says he wants to make America Great Again. But everything I see seems to point in the opposite direction. He will make it smaller. America cannot retreat from the world nor effect the kind of radical changes which Trump wants without severely rocking the global consensus. So my “advice” to the EU would be simple and straightforward: unite and stand up to Trump before he brings down the roof on everyone’s head. The same could be said of any other power that wants to tear up the existing consensus. The time for changing borders by force or bullying small nations into submission is not the answer.