UPDATED 2: Italian President Mattarella in talks on immigration and commercial relations
Italian President Sergio Mattarella has begun an official two-day State visit to Malta on the eve of the Arraiolos Meeting which will bring together in Malta the non-executive Presidents of the EU. During a meeting with Malta President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the Italian President spoke of the special relationship between the two countries which determined their cooperation in a number of sectors.
Mattarella was welcomed during a ceremony held in Valletta’s St George’s Square. After the playing of the respective national anthems, the two Presidents inspected the guard of honour. Before discussions between the two presidents commenced they exchanged gifts with President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca presenting President Mattarella with a silver filigree karozzin while he presented the Malta President with a Venetian Murano glass vase.
Matters concerning immigration issues in the Mediterranean Region were the main theme of their discussions. President Coleiro Preca said Malta is fully aware that Italy is facing the brunt of immigration issues and said the burden has to be shared between all the EU Member States.
President Coleiro Preca said, “Malta stands in full solidarity with Italy to help deal with the current migratory pressure from the Central Mediterranean route. Malta believes that relocation remains a key measure in order to alleviate the pressure on front line EU members by sharing the responsibility in dealing with applicants.”
President Mattarella said that both Italy and Malta shared the same principles regarding peace and international collaboration. He said this is fully reflected regarding immigration and solidarity with African states in a European context. He praised Malta for having already taken up its EU established quota of immigrants.
The Italian President said, “E’ avvenuto anche in altri paesi, non e’ avvenuto in tutti i paesi, dimostrando che l’unione ha bisogno di fare molta strada per acquisire il senso della solidarieta’ e del comune impegno su alcuni fronti soprattutto quello del fenomeno migratorio.”
Regarding Libya, Mattarella said that Italy is urging the EU that together with the United Nations stability be established in this country and that conditions in Libya’s refugee camps be improved.
The two presidents referred to the interconnector between Malta and Italy with President Coleiro Preca expressing her hopes the same level of cooperation will be reached for a natural gas pipeline.
The Malta President remarked that Italy has remained as Malta’s largest trading partner with 3,320 Italian companies operating in Malta.
The two presidents stressed the special relationship between the two countries as well as the economic, political and cultural cooperation. This was emphasised by the Italian President when he signed the visitors’ book.
President Mattarella also held discussions with Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat and Leader of the Opposition Dr Simon Busuttil, with Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Angelino Alfano attending both meetings.