The Malta Independent 13 June 2024, Thursday
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Parliament: 69 seconds for NATO decision

Carmel Cacopardo Sunday, 9 June 2024, 08:46 Last update: about 5 days ago

The electoral campaign has ended. When reading this article, the counting process at Naxxar will have started with the electronic scanning of the votes cast, which feeds the digital counting starting at around 9.00am.

It was an election for 6 seats in the European Parliament, but the electoral campaign, focused mostly on Maltese politics and, sometimes, on the local impact of EU policy and politics.

One of the most contentious issues was that of the defence politics of the EU.  I have already written about the subject in these columns during the campaign. It would be useful to ponder further on some of the relevant points.

It should by now be understandable that, for example Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians have a different perspective of EU defence policy from the Maltese voters. Their homeland borders Russia and naturally they feel extremely threatened by their neighbour’s behaviour. The same goes for Sweden and Finland, who, faced with the Russian invasion of Ukraine opted to ditch their neutrality and joined NATO.

At the time of writing, whether we like it or not, 23 out of the 27 EU member states are members of NATO. Malta, Ireland, Austria and Cyprus are the exceptions. (Cyprus had its NATO membership application vetoed by Turkey.) It is a politically difficult situation which requires a tightrope walking skill. 

On 27 May, a press release issued by the House of Representatives informed us that Malta was unanimously approved as an Associate Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, the military alliance.  This follows a request made by the Maltese Parliament in October 2023. In fact, a motion to this effect was tabled by Foreign Minister Ian Borg on the 22 September 2023 and was discussed by Parliament on the 3 October 2023. It was approved. The motion was introduced by the Hon Andy Ellul. No one spoke about its contents. Not one syllable was uttered: neither in favour nor against.

The approval of the motion utilised just 1 minute and 9 seconds of Parliament’s time. The motion was just read and approved immediately without vote. I had to check the Parliamentary records including watching the video of the Parliamentary session of the 3 October 2023 to actually confirm all this.

I do not recall Parliamentary reports in the media referring to the matter.

Malta’s approval as an associate member of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly is intended to facilitate the participation of Maltese MPs when issues of security and defence are on the assembly’s agenda, we were informed in Parliament’s press release.

The motion was wrapped in politically correct language, emphasising Malta’s neutral status. Notwithstanding, when Parliament approved Malta’s application to seek associate membership of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly it sent the wrong signal. This is also in conflict with the all the Prime Minister’s speeches on defence spending of the EU during the electoral campaign which has just ended. He never informed his supporters that notwithstanding his vociferous speeches he was seeking a space much closer to NATO, which after all is a military alliance.  Dom Mintoff is undoubtedly turning in his grave! He would have expected all this from PN Members of Parliament but not from Labour’s MPs.

Parliament needs much more than 69 seconds to discuss seriously Malta’s defence policy, its security and its role, if any, in the EU’s defence policy.

Maybe it was right, after all, to pelt Robert Abela with eggs at Birgu during the 31 March commemoration. Next time all MPs, without exception, should be targeted. They deserve it.

 

An architect and civil engineer, the author is a former Chairperson of ADPD-The Green Party in Malta.  [email protected] ,   http://carmelcacopardo.wordpress.com

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