Statement by Jean-Yves Le Drian
Minister, cher Evarist, it’s always a pleasure for me to come to Malta. It’s my third visit as Foreign Minister in the past two years; they’re always pleasant and positive visits. We took the time to talk and will continue our conversation over the coming months of preparations for the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, due at the beginning of 2022.
We’ll continue our conversation in the next few moments, but I wanted to say that our ambition for the French EU presidency will obviously include stability in the Mediterranean, and we share the same ambition on the issue. We also have the same desire to find long-term human solutions to our shared challenges, be they climate, digital technology or health. And in this unusual period we also discussed the need to act together to combat the pandemic and ensure not only that this challenge is shared at European level but also that we can build health policy for the long term by going very much on the attack in the battle against COVID in the countries on the other side of the Mediterranean, and we’re totally in agreement in those discussions too.
We also talked more broadly about the relationship with our southern neighbourhbood, because it too will be an important issue for the French presidency of the Council of the European Union, and Malta and France are two of the European Union countries most mindful of the importance of this Mediterranean dimension and of the importance of this southern neighbourhood.
On the migration which Evarist mentioned at length in his remarks and which we ourselves also discussed in our meetings, you’re aware that some important European negotiations are under way to complete the upcoming pact on migration and asylum, and France is determined to help bring these talks to completion. It shares with Malta the goal of solidarity with countries of first entry; it also shares the policy of collective responsibility for people. So we must make progress in this direction, and we think our role in this dialogue will be extremely useful. You recalled, cher Evarist, that we’ve always delivered when we’ve been called upon to share support for refugees. We must now organize all this more and, in the framework of the upcoming pact on migration and asylum, Europe must enable this new pact to be completed, because it can’t allow itself to fail on this issue, because the European Union’s political credibility depends on it. I’ll be having a lot of meetings on this issue, I’m also going to the European Asylum [Support] Office here this afternoon, because it’s an important European body which is set to become the European asylum agency, and it’s important for us to rapidly strengthen its missions and its resources.
We also obviously talked about the Libya situation. I can only repeat here that we support the provisional institutions which were set up and we’re absolutely determined to help the Libyans regain their own national autonomy by re-establishing the legitimate institutional bodies and ensuring that security can be restored in the run-up to the elections in Libya scheduled for the end of the year. The Europeans are speaking with one voice on this issue and you’ll have seen that a while ago the German and Italian foreign ministers and I went together to lend our support to the new momentum being created in that country. We share a whole point of view, the same assessment, knowing that it’s urgent to respect the commitments made by the different sides which were agreed when the ceasefire took place in October 2020 and then at the time the composition of the new government was decided as part of the political [dialogue] forum.
And there’s a regional issue Evarist and I talk about regularly, the situation in Lebanon, on which I’d like to say a few words. It’s a regional issue, it’s a Mediterranean issue, it’s an issue for the Europeans. You know the serious deterioration in the economic, social and humanitarian situation and the fact that the political leaders continue to hinder the formation of a competent government able to reform the country. I want to say here, as I’ve already said when I last came here in July 2020, on my way back from Lebanon, I had some fairly serious things to say about that country’s situation and I’d like to repeat them here: those responsible for blocking things must understand that we won’t keep on doing nothing. We’ve begun thinking with our European partners about the instruments at our disposal for increasing pressure on the players in a political system who are obstructing a way out of the crisis. And at national level we’ve started implementing restrictive measures as regards access to French territory against figures involved in the current political deadlock, or involved in corruption. And we’re retaining the possibility of adopting additional measures against all those who are hindering a solution to the crisis, and we’ll do so in coordination with our international partners.
Finally, to conclude, I’d like to tell you that the bilateral relationship between our two countries is excellent in all its economic and cultural aspects. I’ll have the honour of being received later by the President. I know that, under his aegis, a high-level symposium is being organized in the coming days on the history of relations between our two countries, and I’m very honoured to be able to discuss this with President Vella./.