Malta Diary Malta once more riding on the crest of a Mediterranean tsunami – will it sink beneath the waves?
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Not for the first time in its history, Malta is once more riding the waves on the crest of a Mediterranean tsunami. That is part and parcel of its history – whether created by the Central Mediterranean pre-Neolithic volcanic eruption that collapsed the link between Africa and Europe and left Malta stranded in the middle as one of the world’s smallest inhabited islands, whether between the upheavals of Carthage and Rome, whether between the designs of the Ottoman Empire and the Christian Knight Cavaliers, whether between Napoleon Bonaparte and Lord Horatio Nelson – and more recently in two World Wars.
During World War II Malta was the most aerial bombarded place in the world!
However, it is now witnessing a different type of tsunami, not a war situation, not a conflict, but nevertheless a situation that creates unease and uncertainty.
The two countries that are closest to Malta are Great Britain and Italy – and both are in turmoil. They are Malta’s largest trading partners; they are Malta’s closest political allies; and they are Malta’s main source of incoming tourism arrivals. Over and above there are extensive Maltese family and marriage ties with both Britain and Italy.
Indeed a political and economic tsunami for Malta!
Neighbours Italy are probably in the worst-hit situation. The shaky Italian Government resigned last week – as was to be expected – and the 67th Italian Government since WWII came into being. Its days are already being counted as numbered in an uneasy coalition between the anti-establishment Cinque Stelle Group and the pro-Establishment Democratic Party with Giuseppe Conte as neutral Prime Minister.
The whole caboose came into being in an obvious step to sideline the highly eccentric and volatile Matteo Salvini who brought about the Government’s collapse by withdrawing from the coalition with Cinque Stelle, as well as his massive anti-EU pronouncements and his determination to bar any further entry by immigrants into Italian ports.
His short-lived status as Italian Deputy PM and Minister for Internal Affairs had already had a backlash on Malta, indignant on his insistence that all immigrant loads should be landed in Malta – of all places, a small and already over-vastly populated island!
Naturally, Malta reacted and made it a clear policy that it will only take immigrants picked up in its rescue zone – and no others, unless individual mercy rescues requiring immediate medical attention. Malta has also insisted with the EU that its arrivals be relocated to EU countries and that seems to be working – for now.
However, how long will Matteo Salvini remain sidelined? There are great apprehensions that in Opposition he will be even more volatile and troublesome and he has already called for a mass protest rally in Rome in October. He has classed the new Government as being “undemocratic” and against the wishes of the Italian electorate – and he is probably correct because I am sure he enjoys the majority support of the Italian electorate.
Indeed, uncertain times ahead for Malta’s closest European neighbour and the return of Salvini is awaited with trepidation.
Looking further north, Brexit will certainly create its own tsunami for Malta in many ways. Britain is Malta’s largest trading partner, Malta’s greatest political ally and also Malta’s main source of incoming tourism as well as the most favoured location for Maltese tourists. In addition, family ties run deep.
By many, new PM Boris Johnson is seen to be in the same line of eccentricity as Matteo Salvini, equally volatile and equally likely to flare up at any given moment and do or say something totally unpredictable.
His decision to suspend the British Parliament until October has already caused concern that this is to ensure that if needs be, Britain will exit the EU without any formal agreement. This will be problematic for Malta because of the number of British residents and employees currently living in Malta as well as Malta’s dependence on Britain for medical supplies and medicines in general.
Malta has frantically worked to achieve bilateral agreements with Britain over many factors and has been met with full cooperation. Malta also stands to gain from international firms having to relocate from Britain to Malta in order to access EU markets.
As things stand, the tsunami waves are beating high and mighty with Malta trying to ride the throes of turmoil, somewhat bolstered by its buoyant economy, its IT diversification, its lead in Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence and virtual full employment.
Interesting days, week and months lie ahead.
“Better a groan than an ouch”
An expression meaning it’s better to suffer slight discomfort than to suffer the whole whack of tragedy.