Malta’s Permanent Representative to the European Union, Ambassador Marlene Bonnici, attended meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council and the General Affairs Council on 11 March 2013. The Foreign Affairs Council meeting, which took place in the morning, discussed various aspects of the European Union’s external relations, including the situation in the Southern neighbourhood, specifically in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Malta welcomed the efforts being made by the European Union, but also urged further EU action in the region. Ambassador Bonnici noted that many challenges remain in the region and it is important that the EU remains engaged in the region.
Libya was one of the countries discussed in this context, with Ministers being briefed on the state of play of preparations for a civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission to support border management in the country. A sea borders expert from the Armed Forces of Malta will participate in this mission, reflecting the importance Malta places on helping Libya – as Malta’s Southern neighbour – secure its borders. Malta also reiterated the importance of the need for the EU to keep up its support for both Tunisia and Egypt as these countries undergo a sensitive period of democratic transition.
Russia and Japan were two other countries which featured during the Council meeting. With respect to Russia, Ministers held a comprehensive debate on the EU’s strategic partnership with the country and expressed concern over issues relating to the rule of law and situation of civil society. Russia will also be discussed at this week’s European Council Summit which will be held on 14-15 March.
Turning to Japan, the Council debated various aspects of relations with the country in view of the EU-Japan summit which will be held towards the end of March. During the discussion, Ministers focused discussions on negotiations for both a free trade agreement and a framework agreement with Japan which are expected to be launched at the upcoming summit.
During lunch, the Council debated the continued appalling situation in Syria, and held an exchange of views with the United Nations and Arab League Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, on his efforts to promote a credible and effective political solution and bring about an end to the unacceptable levels of violence. A recent report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) states that over 1 million Syrian refugees have now arrived in neighbouring countries. The EU and its Member States have contributed more than €428 million in humanitarian assistance to Syrians inside and outside of the country.
In the afternoon, Ambassador Bonnici attended a meeting of the General Affairs Council, which held discussions on the preparation for this week’s European Council Summit. The Summit, which will be attended by the Prime Minister, will focus its discussion on the state of implementation of the Compact for Growth and Jobs.
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