All-the-leading-EU-boys-and-girls-get-together

All-the-leading-EU-boys-and-girls-get-together

 

Those who think the getting together of Europe and eventually the EU of today started with the signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25th March 1957 think wrong.

 

A number of attempts had been staged before – and failed, for various reasons. In the late 18th and early 19th Century Napoleon Bonaparte tried to unite the whole of Europe with a common  policy, common legislation, common currency and a common market but failed because France would have ruled the roost over all the others and the British, Spanish and Russians would have none of it.

 

The-day-after-PM-Muscat-and-wife-Michelle-centre-entertain-Belgium-Luxembourg-and-Slovenia-PMs-to-traditional-Maltese-pastizzi-pea-or-rikotta-filling-in-short-pastry

The-day-after-PM-Muscat-and-wife-Michelle-centre-entertain-Belgium-Luxembourg-and-Slovenia-PMs-to-traditional-Maltese-pastizzi-pea-or-rikotta-filling-in-short-pastry

Adolf Hitler staged another attempt this time on a worldwide stage but under Nazi rule and also failed and then the Soviets, mainly under Josef Stalin launched their own attempt and this failed too.

 

Yet, and yet, this was all old hat because the Knights of Malta of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (currently at war with the Pope) by the 13th Century had managed to unite a number of sectors in Europe because the Order was composed of different ‘langues’ from different European countries i.e. Spain, Portugal, France, German Provinces, Italian Provinces, England, Scotland and even Russia. Their basic policy was the strengthening of Europe, the safeguarding of European values and mainly the safeguarding of Christianity (albeit at the time Roman Catholic) – with a strong anti-Islamic taint.

 

The-signing-of-the-Treaty-of-Rome-in-1957

The-signing-of-the-Treaty-of-Rome-in-1957

Step forward to 2017 and Malta holding the Presidency of the EU Council for the first six months of the year, and thus on Friday, 3rd February 2017 the EU clans all gathered in Malta for what was termed as an ‘Informal Summit’. Why diverse from a ‘Formal Summit’ beats me….

 

Whatever, Malta was and is cock-a-hoop at being the centre of European (and hence world) attention. However, not in all sectors.

 

During the 150 year sojourn of the British in Malta they coined the term “Maltese Gem-Gem” because the Maltese were always complaining about something or other! Over 50 years of Independence later, the term still very much applies today.

 

German-Chancellor-Angela-Merkel-meets-the-kiosk-staff-that-served-her-breakfast

German-Chancellor-Angela-Merkel-meets-the-kiosk-staff-that-served-her-breakfast

Malta’s Opposition Party – in Opposition after suffering the greatest landslide defeat in Maltese electoral history – have been chomping at the bit with envy and anger. They were responsible for Malta entering the EU in the first instance over ten years ago and today’s Government was the party that opposed EU entry, yet they are the ones now basking in glory!

 

Venting their envy and anger they have been attempting to damage the current Government in EU Commission and Council eyes by repeated allegations of corruption against the Government, earning several humiliating rebukes from EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk and almost all EU Commissioners who variously labelled their allegations as “irrelevant”, “time-wasting” and “out of place”, while urging them to “wash their dirty linen” internally and not bore others with it.

 

Such ignorance is simply mind-numbing.

 

-A-traditional-Maltese-ftira

-A-traditional-Maltese-ftira

However, the “Gem-Gem” did not stop there. With all the big shots (all EU Leaders) in Malta and particularly Valletta last Friday, security was bound to be tight and highly restrictive. The country’s General Retailers’ and Traders’ Union (GRTU) immediately released a statement saying that the restrictions had affected Valletta’s retail outlets.

 

Naturally, they expected that people like Angela Merkel, Francois Holland and Theresa May should have strolled around Valletta unaccompanied preferably in a pair of shorts and a skimpy top to enjoy our Mediterranean sun (it was a brilliant day weather-wise), just like your ordinary tourist, without a care in the world.

 

Maltese-PM-Joseph-Muscat-left-with-EU-Commission-President-Jean-Claude-Juncker

Maltese-PM-Joseph-Muscat-left-with-EU-Commission-President-Jean-Claude-Juncker

Right, so all the boys and girls got together, shook hands, kissed, patted each others’ backs and took snapshots together, showing brilliantly beaming smiles throughout the day.

 

Was anything achieved?

 

Malta’s main Agenda item was illegal immigration in the Mediterranean region, predicted by Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to reach enormous heights over the next four months. Discussions were held and quickly concluded, even before the set time! Italy and Libya have reached an agreement on the matter and Libya is to be aided to attempt to stem the expected surges. A further sum of €200 million is to be allocated to help this effort.

 

-French-President-Francois-Hollande-views-the-bedroom-where-Napoleon-Bonaparte-slept-for-one-night-while-briefly-in-Malta

-French-President-Francois-Hollande-views-the-bedroom-where-Napoleon-Bonaparte-slept-for-one-night-while-briefly-in-Malta

Will it succeed? Only time will tell. Libya is still unstable and has two governments saying they rule the country, while tribal clans are still very much divided. The ‘settlement’ seems, to me, to be set in clay!

 

Undoubtedly, everybody had a good time. Valletta was toured for them to admire all the baroque architecture and history, including the splendour of St John’s Co-cathedral, all built by the Knights using Maltese architects and workmanship. They were given a magnificent view of the Grand Harbour, crossed the harbour in boats and re-convened at Fort St Angelo where they tucked into a traditional Maltese lunch of Widow’s Soup (basically a vegetable broth concoction with goat cheeselettes), then lampuki fish and finally sweet and sugary fritters to round it all off.

 

Italian-PM-Paolo-Gentiloni-meets-and-agrees-with-Libyan-counterpart-Fayez-al-Sarraj.

Italian-PM-Paolo-Gentiloni-meets-and-agrees-with-Libyan-counterpart-Fayez-al-Sarraj.

However, I feel the main highlight was provided by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. On her way into Valletta on Friday morning her extensive entourage stopped at a food kiosk in Gzira where she breakfasted on a Maltese ftira (traditional round, flat bread, spread with olive oil and tomato puree and filled with tuna, mint, olives and what have you, topped with a generous sprinkling of pepper and salt), together with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

 

Her entourage tucked into freshly-baked croissants and coffee.

 

Merkel met the staff, shook hands, had her picture taken with them and actually spoke to them in English!

 

All-pals-together-all-smiles-and-much-back-patting....but_...

All-pals-together-all-smiles-and-much-back-patting….but_…

A lovely touch on a momentous day – but will the day make any difference? Will the EU become more user-friendly with Merkel setting the pace? Will the immigration scourge be stemmed?

 

And ‘Brexit’? Well, Theresa May was here in the morning but left at mid-day to return to London – like she was having none of this either!

 

All remains to be seen and every aspect squeaks with suspense….

 

ALBERT FENECH

-All-aboard-the-Jolly-Boat-crossing-the-magnificent-Grand-Harbour.

-All-aboard-the-Jolly-Boat-crossing-the-magnificent-Grand-Harbour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Albert Fenech

Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management but still retained his roots by actively pursuing freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel.