The Malta Independent 20 June 2021, Sunday

Peace (and not Pesco) on Earth to men of goodwill

Ivan Grech Mintoff Sunday, 24 December 2017, 07:10 Last update: about 4 years ago

This week, our PM announced in Parliament that he has decided that Malta will opt out of PESCO - the EU's new defence and security cooperation - because "certain operations of the new entity might be in breach of the neutrality clause of Malta's Constitution", quoting Muscat, our newspapers stating that PESCO membership for Malta could potentially conflict with the country's constitutional neutrality followed, strangely, by our PM assuring us that he has 'legal advice' to the contrary: "I do not foresee any particular neutrality-related issue related to membership in PESCO, but I do not know exactly how the defence pact is going to work."


It should have been a very pleasant surprise. But I find myself very worried by Muscat's latest announcement, as should anyone having some basic knowledge on the subject and who understands how Muscat truly operates when he is faced with something to which he knows he will face stiff opposition.


By 2013, the Malta Labour Party, under Muscat's control, had already moved well away from all its real core Socialist beliefs. He had taken the 'moviment' in a new, American-style, neo-liberal direction. A quick trip to the fourth floor would convince anyone of this new, and alien, Obama/Clinton modus operandi.

One of Muscat's very first moves was to remove the MLP from Socialist International. No labour delegate voted for such a thing and, in fact, everything was done behind their backs! No valid reason was given or public announcement made in this regard. It was a clear and surreptitious move to distance the moviment from core party beliefs.

Another integral pillar of the MLP is Malta's neutrality, as enshrined in our Constitution. So important is it to Labour that we all remember the repercussions when the then Nationalist government illegally forced Malta back into NATO through the back door. On Saturday, 1 April 1995, the Labour delegates met in an extraordinary general meeting to discuss this very subject and they voted that, if the MLP were to win the next election, Malta would withdraw totally from NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP), as this was in breach of our Constitution's neutrality clause. As soon as it came to power, history confirms that this is exactly what the Labour government of 1996 did. An economy built on peaceful stability and refusing to take sides between any belligerent is that important to the Laburisti and I suspect many others too.

In December 2009, Muscat (as Leader of the Opposition) and George Vella (now of Gieh ir-Republika fame) quietly met up with the US Ambassador Douglas Kmiec. They told the American government's representative that "Malta's reactivated membership of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme was clearly invalid". Vella showed pride that he himself, as Foreign Minister in 1996, had approved the letter whereby Malta withdrew completely and unconditionally from the PFP. To the utter astonishment of the US Ambassador, however, they then announced a 'willingness to accept PFP'. Muscat even announced that 'the Constitution requires modernisation going forward' but, he added, there was 'a need to act multilaterally'...

Even though Vella himself acknowledged and stated that Malta's participation in the PFP was constitutionally illegal, Malta nevertheless remains active in the PFP under the government of which he formed a part until this year and, even now, the present Maltese government knows and continues to be illegally active in NATO's PFP.

What is even worse is that this Government is knowingly breaking the clause in the Constitution by:

  • being active in other military alliances as well as NATO's PFP
  • not adhering to non-alignment as obliged by law
  • refusing to work actively for peace when asked to do so, even working against the UN's own peace work, whilst Vella claims otherwise!
  • illegally allowing Maltese facilities to be used by foreign forces, as confirmed by the French themselves after the now infamous plane crash at our international airport in 2016.


So - why would anyone who has repeatedly declared his wish to render our neutrality clause useless now tell us, this week, that he will not be joining PESCO? What is so wrong/different (to NATO) about PESCO that tghana lkoll should - for now - refuse to join something that does not (he assures us!) conflict with our neutrality?

What is Pesco?

Pesco, or 'Permanent Structured Cooperation', is an agreement signed by 23 of the 28 EU countries which are now legally bound to participate in 'projects' under PESCO. More to the point, according to Pesco's official web page, 'its members have already submitted more than 50 joint projects in the fields of defence capabilities and military operations.' within merely a few weeks.

The EU officially tells us that PESCO will "boost the efficiency of the European military by eliminating redundancies, streamlining defence acquisitions and boosting logistics through a network of hubs spread across the continent".

But.... isn't NATO (the EU's de facto military) already a "network of dozens of hubs spread across the continent" and doesn't it "eliminate redundancies" etc, already? 

If so, why then is there the need of a duplicate NATO's military organisation whilst EU officials like Mogherini seem to have gone to extraordinary lengths to deny that such duplication exists. Why deny something that is so blatant?

Some actually see this Pesco duplication as nothing more than the very weakening of NATO itself. Others in the EU are nervous that Trump is the supreme military commander of the US military forces and nervous of the over-reliance of NATO and the EU on America's military might. After all, when David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy ran out of bombs and missiles during their Libyan campaign, it was the US to which they had to turn and, earlier, the US also had to bail them out in the Balkan conflict. What if Trump suddenly decided not to back any present or future EU military operation?

And Germany and France have made it blatantly clear that they wish to see a fully-fledged independent EU army created as soon as possible.

So even on this simple (military) issue, there is no common agreement in the European Parliament, either! But whether a duplicate to NATO or not, there can be no doubt that Pesco is certainly now officially playing an increased joint EU military role. It gathers the militaries of EU states into a new, common military alliance.

If our Constitution is blatantly clear that "Malta cannot join any military alliance", then why does our PM state that he is "legally advised" that, in joining Pesco, Malta would not be breaching its neutrality clause?

Of course it would, Prime Minister! And this is why I find myself worried and, once again, not trusting this PM, because this is a Prime Minister who repeatedly promises one thing publicly and then delivers the very opposite. Accountability, meritocracy, good governance, law and order, resignations...

Did he keep his promise when he gave us his word to resign if the power station was not completed within six months of taking office?

He is on (pre election) video assuring us that gays have no right to adopt, that the 'morning after pill' is abortive, that gay marriage is unnatural. He did not keep his word on any of these either. He delivered the very opposite on all of them. In his words, then, he introduced abortion into Malta through the back door even if our laws state that abortion is illegal.

"There is no place for people who use their position in a way that could be interpreted as being abusive and excessive". After 'Panamagate', the Libyan visas scandal and much more, his very words ring very, very hollow today. 

So I find myself asking: what is his real reason for not joining Pesco now and why do I find myself worrying about it all? Why is my instinct telling me that Muscat is busy working away on another massive stitch-up in this regard too?

As the new year approaches and the government-induced pressure for Constitutional reform increases exponentially, I hope I am wrong when I predict that Constitutional reform will only translate into more power-grabbing by the two traditional parties, more crippling of our institutions to only serve them when in power and a reduction of rights for the Maltese people, including the final, legal destruction of the neutrality clause - a promise that Muscat seems "obliged" to keep.

If so, he will find harsh opposition on all of these fronts and he can rest assured that Alleanza Bidla and its allies will be at the forefront once again against such blatant abuse. 

I will conclude this year, by asking our government (as we have done for the last four years) to forget all the mistakes of the past and to use our neutrality clause - a very powerful tool - to bring huge results for Malta. Join us and start working actively for peace in Libya, so that, together, we can bring real stability and much-needed security to our region. No doubt, thousands of lives will be lost unnecessarily next year as unscrupulous people will keep lining their pockets dishonestly.

And it is time to make real change happen on all of these fronts so that we may once again feel very proud to be called Maltese - a decent people rather than a bunch of crooks, as the world now sees us.

A blessed Christmas, a great year ahead and peace on earth to all men of good will!     

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