The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Updated: ‘Europe has to create opportunities, not stifle them’ - Joseph Muscat

Rebekah Cilia Thursday, 2 May 2019, 19:16 Last update: about 11 months ago

Whilst saying that he believes there should be convergence on a European level, Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat said that Europe has to create opportunities, not stifle them, on Thursday during the launch of the PL EU elections manifesto.

He also said there cannot be a “one size fits all” approach, adding that the realities of each country need to be taken into consideration. “Taxation should be a national competence and exclusive to each EU country,” Muscat added.

Speaking about the statement of intent for all EU parliament candidates, Muscat said that they need to work in favour of Malta and not to work and speak in a partisan manner.

“This does not mean that Labour MEPs are like a fan club of the government but will bring to the government’s attention issues on a European level that needs attending to,” Muscat said, adding that they also need to tell the government when it is not implementing EU rules well.

The emphasis of this manifesto is that the work that is done on a European level is complementary with the work of the government on a national level, Muscat noted.

Muscat congratulated the current MEPs saying that their performance was very good because they also kept the “pulse” of the Maltese society in mind, they worked towards national interest and dedicated their time in the EU parliament to work towards Malta.

“They always kept Malta in their hearts,” Muscat added, echoing the slogan of the EU elections campaign.

“We need to insist with the European Parliament that our economy is one in favour of a strong economy,” Muscat said. He added that the economic rhythm that Malta is going through must be sustained and that in no way should it be disrupted by European politics.

Having said this, Muscat noted that generally European politics is usually positive and actually helps countries to move forward.

He said that Malta’s growth is estimated to increase in the coming two years, adding that the next MEPs will have a strong basis to work on. “Without creating wealth we cannot distribute it.”

Muscat spoke about technology, saying that he wishes that all EU MEPs take the initiative that is being done on a local level, “so as Malta is not only the blockchain island but Europe becomes the blockchain continent.”

Regarding the environment, which Muscat described as a crucial point of the manifesto, he said there were two main points. One is Malta being at the forefront of European countries to introduce a system of plastic bottle returns.

Muscat said that 70 percent of plastic bottles that are consumed in Malta will be removed from circulation. This will have a direct impact on the waste stream and on the cleanliness of the sea.

The other focal point regarding the environment is concerning electric vehicles. “The ambition is to be amongst one of the first European countries to do this changeover.”

Muscat said the strategy is in its last phases and the date when this change over will take place will soon be out for consultation. “This does not mean no more cars using petrol or diesel will be allowed but it will be the day when new cars being bought will have to work with electricity.”

Speaking about civil rights, "something we have become leaders in Europe about,” Muscat said that without sounding patronising we could offer a blueprint for other countries and MEPs could be “standard bearers” for the rest of the EU.

Another part of the manifest speaks about future generations, Muscat said, saying that on a European level socialists have a guarantee for children. The synergy continues here, Muscat noted, saying that on a national level no child having at least one family member working will live in poverty.

Muscat also spoke about the expansion of the Erasmus program, that is being cultivated by the socialist party on a European level, which the PL agrees with. Erasmus will not only be open to university students but even for students of a younger age.

The manifesto also speaks about immigration, which Muscat said that contrary to the Opposition the PL does not agree that Malta should become a centre for immigrants. “We do not agree that everyone who is saved from the Mediterranean should come to Malta.”

“Malta should make the necessary steps to save people, to keep to its international obligations but we cannot carry that which is not ours.”

Muscat also spoke about security, saying that it is not an issue that cannot be avoided, especially by social democrats. Parties like the PL, which are progressive, need to show people they can feel safe in their community.

Gozo is also one of the topics Muscat mentioned as being part of the manifesto, saying that in the past all PL MEPs always gave importance to Gozo, not only during election times but continuously even with their presence in Gozo.

Muscat spoke about the permeant link between Malta and Gozo saying that although Opposition Leader, Adrian Delia now seems to imply that studies need to take place before deciding on the tunnel, the local parliament has unanimously voted that the tunnel will be constructed, albeit with studies being concluded before.

“This is a manifest being put to Maltese society together with a team of 14 candidates which I have no problem, actually I am proud, to put my name under each every one of their names.”

Muscat ended the launch by saying that the Opposition is doing a good job to raise expectations for the Government and to lower expectations for them. He said that in the last EU elections although the PL won “handsomely,” the number of seats elected was still three for the PL and the three for the PN.

“Whilst keeping our feet on the ground, this gives us an impetus to knock on each door and go to each locality and speak to the people.”


PN reaction 

Reacting, the PN said that while it has been consistent in its backing of an adequate connection between Malta and Gozo, it had never given a carte blanche to the government to do as it pleased without all studies being completed and before a serious consultation with all stakeholders takes place.

The PN said that a serious process requires that all studies are carried out, a consultation takes place, and a final decision is only made after these steps.

The PN said it wants to ensure that Gozo’s and Gozitans’ interests ara safeguarded, together with those of environmental sustainability and good governance.

In Parliament, the Opposition has tabled amendments to the government’s tunnel motion, and asked the government to publish all studies which have already been finalised, and that other studies continue and be published once completed, the PN said.

The party said it has also requested that the government ensures that all necessary studies are carried out, including studies on the possibility of a mass-transport system.




Photos: Alenka Falzon

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