The leaders of southern European nations have gathered in Malta to build a united front on key economic and political issues ahead of next week's European Council meeting.

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

Spain is pushing for a higher EU leadership profile and wants the EU to bolster its cooperation with Morocco, a key ally in stopping African migrants from crossing the Mediterranean into Europe.

Italy and Malta want to tighten the EU's immigration and asylum policies.

Climate change is a priority for France, which is pushing to make all EU countries set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.