The heads of state and government of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, or so-called “Club Med,’ convened in Rome on January 10 for the fourth Summit of the Southern European Union countries, focusing mostly on migration but also security, energy, education and culture. They also agreed to hold the next summit in Cyprus.

Acknowledging that the management of migration flows will be a fundamental challenge for EU in the years to come, the leaders from the seven southern European states said they are firmly committed to a common European policy on migration.

Unlike the Visegrad Group of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which opposes migrant quotas and a solidarity-based system, the Southern EU countries are particularly concerned and affected as they are at the forefront of the EU external borders. 

“Our fundamental role and burden of protecting those borders must be acknowledged and shared by the EU,” they said in a joint statement, adding that the EU would have to redouble its fight against human trafficking and new forms of slavery, guarantee human rights of all persons and protect those in need of international protection, particularly the most vulnerable groups.

“We are strongly committed to a common European migration policy, to prevent irregular flows as well as to address the root causes of mass migration in dialogue and cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. We are determined to strengthen our partnerships with those countries, particularly in Africa,” the southern EU leaders said, noting that the full implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, in an Aegean Sea where international law is respected, is needed.

Given concrete success achieved in the external dimension of migration in recent months, adequate funding to existing financial instruments should continue, including the EU Trust Fund for Africa and the EU-Turkey facility, also with a view of establishing fully funded financial instruments in the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), they said.

“We firmly believe that positive outcomes on the external dimension of the Migration Agenda need to be complemented by a determined effort to build a new and fair Common European Asylum System (CEAS) based on the effective respect of the principles of responsibility and solidarity, especially towards frontline Member States,” the statement read.

Spanish Red Cross personnel help 97 migrants who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and brought ashore at the Augusta port in Sicily, Italy, January 11, 2018.   EPA-EFE/SPANISH MINISTRY OF DEFENSE HANDOUT
Spanish Red Cross personnel help 97 migrants who were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and brought ashore at the Augusta port in Sicily, Italy, January 11, 2018. EPA-EFE/SPANISH MINISTRY OF DEFENSE HANDOUT

Economic growth

The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain also acknowledged that the EU is back to a path of growth. “It will be key to fully combine economic growth and social wellbeing. Further steps to complete the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) are necessary to achieve more sustainable and balanced growth, competitiveness, quality employment and convergence. The future EMU should be more resilient, growth-friendly and democratic, so as to further consolidate that area of prosperity which constitutes the basis of the European project. Completing and strengthening the Banking Union is a priority,” the leaders said, nothing that a common backstop to the Single Resolution Fund and a European Deposit Insurance Scheme should be established as soon as possible, in line with the need to combine the objectives of risk sharing and risk reduction. Discussions should be taken forward on the possibility of having a fiscal capacity with an investment and stabilization function within the EMU to foster long term productivity, increase its ability to react to economic shocks and avoid long-term negative effects on our societies. The fiscal framework should provide the right incentives for growth-friendly fiscal policies and continuous reform efforts and achieve the right balance between sustainability and stabilization, the leaders said, adding that the ultimate objective of an effective EMU should be the progressive convergence of the Member States towards sustainable and socially inclusive growth.

Turning to EU solidarity, they noted that Europe is safer and stronger, but much remains to be done. “A more sovereign, social and democratic Europe, which can be a leading model in the world, is our way forward. Together, we can address our citizens’ needs by setting a common ambition whilst being open to the involvement of all committed Member States, as we have just done in the field of defence,” the statement read.

The leaders also called for implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights proclaimed in Goteborg, at Union and Member State level. “The European Council of December 2017 has stressed the need to implement a new package of initiatives in the field of health, gender, labour and social protection. Promoting a more balanced and sustainable development, encouraging necessary reforms and enabling social safety net schemes are the most important lessons we have learnt from the financial crisis,” the statement read.

EU security

Turning to security, they noted that all citizens have the right to live free from fear. “Security is crucial to ensure that all Europeans live a life rooted in democracy and freedom. We are determined to continue to thrive on openness and to fight those who oppose liberties and civil rights. Europeans must take greater responsibility for their security and do more to fight terrorism,” they said, stressing that the defence of European countries matters for the protection of EU citizens and the credibility of the European Union as a whole.

“European action shall be aimed at addressing regional and global challenges with a special focus on the Mediterranean, EU’s immediate Eastern neighbourhood, and Africa: a democratic, stable and prosperous neighbourhood is a strategic priority and in the fundamental interest of the EU,” the said.

The Cyprus problem

The leaders of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain noted that they closely follow and reiterate their support for a viable comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, in line with the UNSC resolutions and the EU acquis, that reunifies Cyprus and its people, and which safeguards Cyprus’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, without guarantees. “The Republic of Cyprus is and will remain a member of the European Union after the settlement, and EU membership is the best safeguard for a reunified Cyprus,” the statement read.

The leaders reiterated their support for all initiatives aimed at fostering democracy and citizens’ participation. “In this respect, we welcome the idea of citizens’ consultations, all over Europe, on core priorities for the future of the European Union, that could be organised from next spring. In the same spirit, transnational lists of Members of the European Parliament to be elected at European level could strengthen the democratic dimension of the Union,” the statement read.