Maltese PM hails pope, calls for multispeed EU
By Eric Maurice
Pope Francis's "insight will be extremely important for Europe's future," said Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat on Monday (27 February), while criticising the EU's "lack of leadership".
"Pope Francis is the ultimate world leader who has the skills and vision to say things that transcend banalities," Muscat said in Valletta ahead of next month's Rome summit.
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The Social-Democratic PM, whose country holds the current EU presidency, added that the Roman Catholic leader may "provide things other politicians miss".
Muscat was speaking at the opening of a forum on migration and the EU neighbourhood, organised by the Institute Jacques Delors as part of the Maltese EU presidency programme.
He said that EU leaders were "looking for ideas" on how to address the migration crisis and there was "evidence that there is a lack of international leadership" to solve the crisis.
He said that EU leaders were faced with "a legitimate demand for protection" from Europe's people but that the only answer offered up to now was protectionism.
"It's now time for mainstream political movement to focus on these things and not leave a vacuum" for protectionist forces, he said.
He also said that the EU needs to "go ahead with multi-speed Europe".
"If the only way of staying united is doing nothing," then some EU member states should integrate further to be able to act, he noted.
He said that with "the composition and structure" of today's EU, a multi-speed Europe was needed when it comes to security and social issues.
Muscat's comment is the latest among EU leaders, including Juncker and Merkel, about a multi-speed Europe.
The EU heads of state and government will gather in Rome next month to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Rome treaty, where they will issue a declaration on the future of the EU.
This week, the European Commission is expected to publish a white paper to lay out its vision for the EU, following commission president Jean-Claude Juncker saying last week that the EU could "do many things together, but this is no longer a time when we can imagine everyone doing the same thing together."
At a summit in Valletta, in early February, German chancellor Angela Merkel noted that "that there will be an EU with different speeds [and] that not everyone will take part in the same levels of integration".
Last year, after Brexit, EU leaders had ruled out treaty changes as a response to citizens' defiance of the EU. But the election of Donald Trump and his support for rising anti-EU forces has changed the situation, and treaty change is back on the agenda, an EU source recently told EUobserver.