The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

Motion on ‘strategic direction’ for link between islands approved

Jeremy Micallef Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 19:28 Last update: about 2 months ago

The motion tabled in Parliament on the strategic direction for a permanent link project between Malta and Gozo has been approved.

Amongst other things, the motion called on MPs to back the tunnel project, making reference to the electoral manifestos of both the Nationalist Party and Labour Party.

The motion was filed with the Speaker’s office last Tuesday by Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects Ian Borg, and Minister for Gozo Justyne Caruana.

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Specifically, the motion referred to the promise for a permanent link between Malta and Gozo in both manifestos, and it also recognized the potential repercussions in the form of waste generation and the preservation of Gozo’s natural beauty and cultural identity.

A number of amendments were made to the original motion from both sides of the House, and it was then passed in its entirety.

 

Open debate

Speaking during the debate, Caruana said that the ministry sees this project as “a crucial component for the development of Gozo”.

She called for the motion to receive the full support of Parliament, maintaining that this will allow for more time with individuals’ respective families and better wages, amongst other things.

In response to critics saying the link will cause Gozo to be over-developed, she insisted that the newly established watchdog entity in Gozo will make sure that the island is developed sustainably.

PN MP Chris Said, who had originally pushed for the project, added that it was important to have a proper discussion on this project.

He maintained that with the process of information, and the process of consultation, much more people will understand the importance of this project.

“In principle, we agree with this motion, but we would like to make some amendments.”

The amendments put forward, he clarified, changed nothing but added more strength and substance to the motion.

PN MP Frederick Azzopardi persistently called for the publication of the studies conducted on the viability of the tunnel project. “If the government is so convinced, why is it waiting to publish the studies?”

Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue Aaron Farrugia added that it must be ensured that this project will not lead to Gozo becoming a “block of concrete”, or an “extension of Bugibba”.

“This is a European project. This project will connect Gozo to the rest of Europe.”

PN MP candidate David Stellini warned that we must not only see Gozo as a tourist destination, but also a place where opportunities can be made.

He also reiterated the call for short-term solutions such as an additional ferry.

PL MP Robert Abela pointed out how the opposition coalition, made up of PN and Partit Demokratiku, was fractured on the issue of the Gozo tunnel project.

Abela brought up the issue of construction waste and the potential of using this waste for land reclamation.

Minister Borg said that this tunnel between the two islands symbolizes a connection between families and a permanent state of peace of mind.

“The Gozitan population has spent decades listening to a number of conversations and proposals, but now we have finally arrived.”

 

Leaders’ Remarks

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat argued that this project would be the largest infrastructural project of its kind for Malta.

The government is looking forward for the project to be completed in the shortest time possible, with respect to all the regulations, Muscat said.

Touching on the issue of the waste which would be generated by the project, he insisted that no idea is being taken off the table.

He clarified that the decision that was to be made was to see if there was an agreement on a strategic direction and not a be-all-end-all decision.

The Prime Minister also insisted that there should be a serious discussion on how the construction waste from the project is to be used.

The Government also put forward amendments to the motion of its own, mostly over style issues and technicalities, and the Nationalist Party agreed to vote on the amendments as individual changes rather than as one whole amendment.

Leader of the Opposition Adrian Delia insisted that it was fundamental to have all the required studies done and available for public consumption to allow for an informed decision.

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