Malta Diary A stirring 24 months lie ahead – but will anything be achieved?
Malta is bracing itself for the stirring and hectic 24 months that lie ahead – events that are well beyond the dimensions of these small islands but which nevertheless will make Malta an international point of focus. The first 12 months may not exactly be prized by the tourist and leisure industry but will surely see the arrival of throngs of media journalists of all shapes and sizes.
The remaining 12 months will be a different cup of tea, a focal point for the tourist and leisure industry, as well as a media attraction.
The line-up is simple enough. For the first six months of 2017, Malta will assume the Presidency of the European Union for the first-time ever under the EU rota system. That may be an administratively demanding task but may be seen by some as a mere formality. It will be far from being that!
The main priority item on the crowded agenda will be BREXIT and negotiations to ease the United Kingdom out of the European Union in line with the wishes of the British people as per their Referendum result. The next major item is how is the EU to tackle the growing pressure for even more exits in view of swings to the extreme right in a number of Member Countries as a result of the mass immigration that has inundated most of Europe, and the third will be Malta’s continuous demand that the EU should decisively tackle the immigrant issue once and for all with compassion but with strong determination.
Lobbying on the sidelines has already been active. At the UN General Assembly in New York recently Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat informally met new British PM Theresa May. No prizes for guessing the main topic on their Agenda! Having naturally already been briefed by Head of the EU Commission Jean Claude Juncker and Head of the EU Council Donald Tusk, Muscat clearly identified the EU’s strategy.
The negotiation task is not going to be an easy one. SkyNews International reported and interviewed Muscat who – according to Sky – is Prime Minister of “Anglophile Malta.” Muscat summed the matter up by quoting, in his own words “the English phrase, you can’t have your cake and eat it”. When challenged to clarify what he meant by this, Muscat said clearly when Britain exits it cannot enjoy the same terms as it has today, that for example, of the single market. UK non-compliance to EU terms would have resultant consequences on the exit terms – even though Malta empathised with some of the reasons that resulted in Brexit.
Prior to the New York visit, Muscat had flown off to Athens at the invitation of Greek PM Alexis Tsipras to meet other Mediterranean EU Leaders, including Francois Hollande of France and Italian PM Matteo Renzi to discuss the immigration crisis and how Malta is intending to deal with this in its Presidency term.
Back to Malta to meet Tusk and then a few hours later to meet Juncker and then Muscat was off again to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin at her invitation amidst widespread fears that Mediterranean countries are planning their own breakaway Medexit from the EU to set up a Mediterranean version of the EU!
In the interim, during Tusk’s visit to Malta it was agreed that early next year Malta will host the next informal EU Summit of all European Union Members, during its Presidency term and because, according to Tusk, Malta is the “best place” for the next Summit and the Maltese people are “the ideal people” to host it.
As if all this were not enough, the United Nations announced that the next World Oceans Conference will be held in Malta next year.
Speaking at the UN Assembly in New York, Muscat clearly outlined Malta’s mission over the next months when he quoted the phrase of former Malta PM, the late Dom Mintoff who in 1974 pronounced there can never be peace and stability in Europe unless there is peace and stability in the Mediterranean region, Muscat adding to it by saying he was substituting “the Mediterranean region” with “the world”.
Working in the closest possible collaboration with Renzi’s Italian Government (Muscat and Renzi are old buddies), the Maltese Government is hellbound on grabbing the immigration problem by the scruff of the neck and thoroughly shaking it up.
Matters should ease off with the advent of 2018 when Valletta will be proclaimed the European Capital City for Culture but that has to be dealt with in a further article.
Meanwhile there are one or two small matters to take care of. In a few weeks’ time, Malta will face England in a World Cup Preliminary Round football match and then plans for a forthcoming Malta General Election which has to take place within the next 24 months.
As an important background to all this, there will be massive security problems to deal with – certainly no easy matter.
So certainly, lots of zest and lots of comings and goings and loads and loads of media coverage will be evident. But what is going to be the ultimate result – maybe the par-for-the-course Status Quo and a jolly good time to be had by all?