The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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TMID Editorial: Malta’s neutrality and being prepared

Wednesday, 27 March 2024, 10:47 Last update: about 18 days ago

The government and the opposition, for the umpteenth time, are pointing fingers at each other while trying to take credit on their more recent political battle – the European Union’s defence spending and Malta’s neutrality.

For weeks, the government has been attacking the opposition for “wanting to take our children to war”, an accusation that stemmed from a statement that was made by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola that Europe needs to step up its defence mechanisms.

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In a bid to score political points and, most of all, to criticise the woman who Labour sees as its biggest rival and threat to power, Prime Minister Robert Abela has used his public speeches to say that, according to him, what Metsola is advocating is war. The PM feeds this narrative to the gullible, as bolstering one’s defences is not calling for war, but being prepared for it if one is attacked. Abela knows the difference, but his followers are too politically blind to understand that, so they believe that Metsola wants Europe to go to war.

Then, after all this rhetoric against war, Abela went on to vote in favour of more spending on Europe’s defence, a position that by and large contradicts the statements he made locally. This point was raised by the Opposition, who accused Abela of speaking one way when in Malta, and doing the opposite in the European structures.

The government defended itself insisting that, in the final document as agreed by European leaders last week, Malta had made sure that its neutrality had been safeguarded. The opposition retorted that Malta’s neutrality had been guaranteed when the country was still negotiating its membership with the EU, more than 20 years ago.

Abela and his counterpart Bernard Grech, in their speeches in Parliament last Monday, bickered on this issue – as their predecessors had done on many occasions when Malta’s neutrality and non-alignment clauses in the Constitutions came up for public discussion. We’re sure that this will not be the last time that the matter is discussed.

The older generations will remember that Malta’s neutrality and non-alignment position was enshrined in the Constitution in 1987, at a time when the Cold War was nearing its end, and on the suggestion by the Labour government in exchange for its acceptance of amendments to the electoral laws.

Labour had remained in government after winning more parliamentary seats with fewer votes in the 1981 election, and the PN had no option but to accept Labour’s neutrality stand to avoid seeing, in 1987, a repetition of what had happened in 1981.

They were different times, but divergences of opinions between the two major parties always emerge when this subject is being discussed.

What needs to be pointed out is that what has happened in Europe these last two years has changed the political scenario completely.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, two countries which were traditionally neutral – Finland and Sweden – decided to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in search of more protection. We’re not saying that Malta should ditch its neutrality too, but what Finland and Sweden did indicates mounting concern.

By bolstering its defences, Europe wants to be prepared.

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