The Malta Independent 16 December 2018, Sunday

The gathering storm clouds

Noel Grima Sunday, 7 October 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

It is not just the meteorology and the dark autumn clouds. The long hot summer is over even, and especially, on the political scene, not just in Malta but also and especially on the international scene. Lost in our microcosm, we may not have been paying adequate attention to what is brewing.

Nearest to us, on the international political scene, is the UK and Brexit. 29th March is fast approaching and there is no guarantee things will work out well at the end. Last month’s summit in Salzburg turned out to be an utter humiliation for Theresa May and dashed her hopes that the rest of the EU would accept her Chequers plan.

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There will be a second Brexit summit later this month with a possibility of a further one in December. Juncker and the other Commission leaders were expressing optimism even up until yesterday but the situation, as seen in Britain is far from rosy. The papers are busy speculating who will take May’s place after she is forced to resign, maybe by a Commons revolt on the Brexit terms. Opinion polls show there is now a majority for reversing Brexit.

The British economy is now demonstrably weaker and banks and even factories are relocating to the Continent.

For all May’s guarantees to EU citizens that they will be still welcome in the UK after Brexit, the very next day after her Salzburg ‘humiliation’ she announced a new legislative package that will welcome EU citizens with skills but not so much the unskilled.

This, I am told, is creating undue tension among many of the Maltese living in the UK since many of them are unskilled and many do not even have resident permits.

On the other hand, Malta will have to implement the decisions taken by the EU with regard to UK citizens and these may alter the present welcoming atmosphere where the Brits have always been welcomed in Malta.

The EU is having many internal problems especially in Germany, its biggest member state. Angela Merkel, everybody understands, is in the twilight years of her long political career and her coalition is at a point where it may not be enough to form a government.

There is a state election in Bavaria today and Merkel’s ally, the CSU may be heading to a defeat. There will be elections in other states soon and these may confirm the trend that may be evident as from today.

However, there is no real alternative to the present Great Coalition and the best one can foresee is a stasis like the one we had for many months after the election last year – a period where no real decisions can be taken. The motor of the EU may grind to a halt.

At the other end of the continent, in Italy, there is a clash coming up between the coalition government and the Commission regarding the Budget for next year with the governing coalition forecasting a deficit that will be at least three times the deficit promised by the preceding PD government.

Here in Malta, as was announced this week, the Commission will soon announce new directions for FIAU, which the Commission and the European Banking Authority feel was too weak to properly do its job. If the FIAU will not prove that it has taken note of this criticism and will amend its ways, the Commission may use a hitherto unused power to issue direct orders to the banks in Malta. The humiliation will thus be complete.

All this goes mainly unnoticed in Malta, focused as we are on the interminable partisan squabbles. There is however one issue which interests the Maltese to which the parties are responding in an imperfect and inadequate manner – the problem of migration.

So far, all we had was words and no effective action at all. Migrants keep coming in on boats and through Italy and crowd together in flats turning entire districts into ghettoes. Police action is so sporadic that when it happens it gets mentioned in the news. Yet the news never tells us of people being sent away, not even when they commit crimes. Nor are there any efforts to promote and ensure integration and assimilation. People become citizens of Malta after paying money because they want to.

As a result, we have chaos everywhere – on the roads, in neighbourhoods, in towns and villages. Every time it rains, it becomes a national crisis and impossible to get anywhere.

In my last article I said there is a need for a party of the Right which addresses the basic issues of the country. I had an overwhelming positive response but more must be done. We are at a time when new coalitions are being set up and they may become active by the time of the European Parliament elections but the Right is still leaderless.

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