Southern EU leaders seek united policy front at meeting

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Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, is welcomed by Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on the occasion of the Mediterranean Summit of Southern EU countries in Valetta, Malta, Friday, June 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Jonathan Borg)

ROME (AP) — The leaders of southern European nations gathered in Malta on Friday to build a united front on key economic and political issues before next week’s European Council meeting.

Key European Union jobs, migration issues and climate change were at the top of the agenda in Valletta, where the meeting included the leaders of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

At a final news conference, Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, said the main focus of the summit was to reach “common ground” on the priorities of the EU for the next five years.

The southern European leaders discussed climate change, among other issues, with the aim of making all EU countries set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Economic and social policies were also in focus, with the leaders agreeing on the need to discuss a “European minimum salary” to face high unemployment levels across Europe.

Migration and cooperation with African countries to help managing migrant flows were also among the top priorities, with both Malta and Italy stressing the need to tighten EU immigration and asylum policies.

All the leaders voiced their worries over the conflict in Libya, which also risks fuelling migrants’ departures from the country in the coming months.

“We need to work together for a cease-fire in Libya and promote political dialogue,” Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said.

French President Emmanuel Macron asked for more solidarity in EU migration policies and promised that the new EU leaders will be chosen based on a common agreement.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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