European Union leaders failed to agree on a common position on migration and other issues being discussed at a summit in Brussels.
European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov were supposed to address a press conference at 7pm but this was cancelled.
Instead a statement was issued in which a spokesperson for council president Donald Tusk said “As one member reserved their position on the entire conclusions, no conclusions have been agreed at this stage.”
Reportedly, the country which blocked the conclusions was Italy, which is now led by a coalition of populists and far-right nationalists.
As EU leaders arrived in Brussels, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat failed to explain Malta’s position on migration to the international press.
In what is being described as a “defining moment” for the EU, most European leaders said solutions had to be based on responsibility and solidarity. They warned the ‘migration crisis’ should not be blown out of proportion as the numbers arriving in Europe were a fraction of what they were in previous years.
Earlier on Thursday, German chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the future of the European Union hinged on whether it could find answers to the “vital questions” posed by migration which is dominating the EU summit in Brussels.
Addressing the German Parliament before heading to Brussels, Merkel said European leaders should find a solution to asylum challenges “by allowing ourselves to be guided by values and rooting for multilateralism rather than unilateralism”.
She warned that the EU heads of government failed to do so they risked creating a situation where “no one believes in the value system that has made us so strong”.
The summit comes in the wake of yet another standoff between Malta and Italy over asylum seekers rescued at sea by a NGO vessel, the MV Lifeline.
The vessel carrying 233 people rescued at sea was finally allowed to dock in Malta on Wednesday after being stranded at sea for almost a week as both Italy and Malta refused to allow the MV Lifeline to dock.
The vessel was only allowed entry into Malta after eight member states – Malta, Italy, France, Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium – agreed to take a share of the migrants, in what has been described as an ‘ad hoc agreement’ brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron.
In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Maltese government said it will be closing its ports to migrant rescuing NGO vessels until an investigation into the operations of the MV Lifeline are completed.
“Given that there are investigations being carried out by independent authorities, and until these issues are clarified, Malta cannot allow entities, whose structure might be similar to that being subject to investigations, to make use of Malta as their port of operations, and to enter or leave the said port,” government said.