European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli yesterday said during a business breakfast organised by the Malta Business Bureau at the Hotel Phoenicia that while he condemns all the violence which took place in Libya over the past two weeks, “I don’t think I or anyone else has the right to interfere in Col Gaddafi’s position.”
Commissioner Dalli, whose assets include a house in Tripoli, according to the European Commission website, admitted that while the situation in Libya is “very worrying”, what is “more worrying” is the political turmoil which has spread across the whole Maghreb region.
“I am not saying that I am in favour or against Col Gaddafi. However, Europe should not clone or expect these countries to model themselves on Europe. We can expect a third and fourth wave of political unrest from these countries in the future and I don’t think I, or anyone else, knows what the final outcome of these waves will be,” Commissioner Dalli added.
He said that Col Gaddafi’s acceptance of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez call for conciliation could be an indication that Col Gaddafi feels that he is threading uneasy ground.
Commissioner Dalli commented that the only accurate information we have so far regarding the crisis in Libya is “two armed groups fighting against each other. That to me is the definition of a civil war. I know Libyans well and we have to understand that it is in their nature and their religion that while we preach forgiveness, they preach retribution. The deaths of hundreds which happened over the past few weeks are sowing the seeds for more strife.”
The former Finance Minister described as “pitiful” the comments given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this week, when she remarked that much of the world is relying on the media in Libya to get a clear picture of what’s going on.
“I personally would not rely on the media. I sometimes wonder whether the shots we sometimes see on the TV of protests in Libya are staged by demonstrators for journalists,” the Commissioner said.
‘I still think Joe Borg should have carried on as Commissioner’
When asked whether he has any regrets over a year into his five-year term as a European Commissioner, Mr Dalli mentioned that he has “no regrets”, although he asserted that “in my opinion, I think that (former European Commissioner) Joe Borg should have been re-appointed. Loyalty should have come first,” he said.
Speaking to a group of Maltese journalists at his office in Brussels last November, Mr Dalli referred to his term as Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer Policy as a “five-year sentence that will soon be up” and outlined his plans to return to the local political scene after his term in Brussels expires.
‘BRIC countries driving jobs away from Europe’
Speaking about Europe’s competitiveness, Commissioner Dalli stated that there is no doubt in his mind that in recent years, European business has lost its competitive edge.
“In areas where Europe once dominated we have now fallen behind. Globalisation brought about opportunities that we failed immediately to grasp. We did well in some areas, but performed poorly in others. This is why some of the most developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China have driven jobs away from Europe. Nevertheless, Europe does have its strengths and it is on these strengths that we should build,” he said.
He briefed the audience about some of the flagship initiatives about the EU 2020 agenda, and called for better linkages between universities and companies.
In the question and answer session that followed, Anthony Tabone from the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, called on the government to allocate more funds for research and development.
Between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of Malta’s GDP spent on research and development grew from 0.26% to 0.55%, and it is projected that by 2020, this percentage will “only” grow to 0.67%, Mr Tabone said.
“Is this enough when we are already lagging behind other EU states in this field?” he asked.