The Nationalist Party is set to file a judicial protest tomorrow over the government’s controversial Individual Investor Programme, party leader Simon Busuttil announced today.
At a political activity in Birkirkara, Dr Busuttil insisted that the judicial protest – which would be filed against the government and concessionaire Henley and Partners – would serve to emphasise to prospective applicants for Maltese citizenships that the scheme was being investigated by the European Commission, and that a Nationalist government would revoke any passports granted under the scheme.
“It is important that those who apply are clearly informed of what they are getting into. Their passports will only be valid until the next election, as we will then revoke them,” he exclaimed.
He stressed that it was important for the party to continue challenging the scheme in parliament, despite the huge parliamentary majority enjoyed by the government, as it was still important for the opposition to speak up on behalf of the public. The scheme, he said, had to be opposed because it was a bad scheme which created needless troubles for Malta, and which betrayed the government’s incompetence and sore lack of ideas.
Dr Busuttil also said that the upcoming debate should provide an opportunity for government MPs “of good will,” who realise that the scheme is damaging the country’s reputation, to stand up and be counted.
“We are ready to do so, but we need you to do so as well,” he appealed to any government MPs who may have reservations about the scheme.
Scheme damaging Malta’s reputation, Busuttil insists
Perhaps inevitably, the PN leader focused mainly on the scheme in his address – as did the other speakers in the day, MP Marthese Portelli and European election candidates Jonathan Shaw and Helga Ellul – and argued argued at length that the scheme would greatly damage Malta’s standing in the EU.
He said that the EP’s vote on the sale of citizenship – in which, he pointed out Labour MEPs were backed by just two fellow socialist MEPs and far-right extremists – showed just how isolated Malta had become.
“If they are unable to even convince their own political group, how can they convince the EU on other issues,” he observed.
Dr Busuttil pointed out that the European Commission’s investigation on the scheme is based on an alleged breach of the principle of “loyal cooperation,” and stressed that this was a very negative consequence of the scheme.
“As the Commission tells the Maltese government that it is not being loyal, can you imagine that other countries will help when we ask for solidarity? Do you think that the Prime Minister can sell the keys to the doors of other EU member states, and question why they are not accepting immigrants,” he asked.
The PN leader insisted that investment did not arrive through one-off schemes, stating that unemployment was continuing to increase while the government failed to respond.
He noted that past PN governments have extensively utilised EU funds to invest in local infrastructure and businesses, and pointed out that while the government is speculating on how it would use the revenue from the sale of citizenships, it has failed to state how it plans to use the €1.1 billion in EU funds for the 2014-2020 period secured by the previous government.
Dr Busuttil said that he was astonished at Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s aggressive tone during last week’s parliamentary debates on citizenship, questioning why he felt the need to act so aggressively in the face of criticism.
He pointed out that this aggression was also manifesting itself at EU level, since the government appeared set to challenge the EU to defend the scheme. But he said that this would create problems, stating that Malta could not expect a serene relationship within the EU if it caused tension
PN seeking to become more inclusive
The PN leader was critical of the government’s continued references to the national interest, pointing out that even Justyne Caruana’s use of an army helicopter to catch a flight was described as being in the national interest.
“Our reply is clear – the abuse of power is not in the national interest,” he added.
“This government cannot tell us what the national interest is as it is acting against it, and when we criticise we are the ones protecting and defending the national interest.”
Dr Busuttil also noted that the PN was set to discuss possible changes to its statute and organisation in a bid to make it more inclusive, and to ensure that the PN truly becomes the people’s party.
He said that the differences between the PN and the PL were set to become clearer in the coming months. Labour, the PN leader said, was showing that it was unable to govern, and proved to be disloyal at an EU level and to the Maltese people.
But he added that the PN had to continue to show that it was built on integrity and seriousness, and that it was ready to present ideas and to convince people about them. He said that the party should not simply rest on the fact that others were bad, but had to ensure that it was a good choice.