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michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon

Patriots and traitors

In Malta many tend to think that the ultimate power in the EU rests with the European Parliament but this is far from the truth

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon
21 November 2017, 7:49am
Italian MEP Lara Comi (EPP) snaps a mobile phone photograph of Nationalist MEP David Casa during his intervention in the rule of law debate on Malta
Italian MEP Lara Comi (EPP) snaps a mobile phone photograph of Nationalist MEP David Casa during his intervention in the rule of law debate on Malta
The follow-up to this week’s discussion and vote about Malta in the European Parliament is no great shakes. I also think that those in the top echelons of the EU are not all convinced that the situation in Malta is as bad as was depicted during the discussion. They know how the party political game is played.

In Malta many tend to think that the ultimate power in the EU rests with the European Parliament. This is far from the truth as we have already seen with the PANA committee that promised fire and brimstone and ended up with a damp squib.

The reaction of the European Commission to all this told a completely different story. 

It is obvious that the game in the European Parliament is politically skewed considering the different treatment given to Malta when compared with how the same European Parliament dealt with Hungary and Poland that – in my opinion – have more serious right of law issues than Malta could possibly have. But in those countries the parties in government are members of the EPP.

"The PN can influence the EPP more than it can influence the Maltese electorate. Its push in Brussels had the desired effect… in Malta it was a total flop"
In Malta, the PN hyped up the importance of the EP motion for its political gain. But that is part of the game... although exaggeration has its limits and can create a backlash.

What I don’t agree with is the depiction of the PN speakers being depicted as traitors because they attacked the stances of the Maltese Government with ‘foreigners’. This is a vestige of our colonial mindset when we took decades to realise that the only way we could resist British colonialism was to present a common front. We are now a fully independent state, a member of the European Union and we should have shaken off this inferiority complex and feel free to discuss our problems in the Parliament elected by the citizens of all the member states. 

Playing the patriots vs traitors card – as the Labour Party has done – does not really seriously impress anyone, except Labour’s own faithful. After all, as Samuel Johnson is touted to have once said: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. 

On the other hand, I have no sympathy with the tactic of exaggerating the situation to score short–lived political points. As I keep on saying, we do have problems in our institutions but this does not mean that our rule of law has collapsed or that Malta is a ‘mafia state’. The PN should push for the needed reforms and co–operate with government to this end, more than using the situation in its push towards regaining the people’s trust.

The PN is facing an interesting conundrum. Co-operating with Government to ensure the much needed reforms – as it is duty bound to do – clashes with its continual attacks about the failure of our institutions made in its quest for power. In this case it should be mature enough to act in a way that shows that it really believes that the country comes before the party. 

Adrian Delia should take the bull by the horns and do the decent thing. He has already declared that he disagrees with the depiction of Malta as a ‘mafia state’. He should continue on the policy of explaining the need for reforms in our constitutional structures and sytems of checks and balances; but at the same time he should act responsibly if the government is also willing to push for these reforms. The two parties do not have exactly the same agenda on these reforms but, as I have already written, agreement is not impossible. This is where Malta should come first, both for Joseph Muscat and for Adrian Delia.

Strangely enough, the PN has shown that it can influence the EPP more than it can influence the Maltese electorate. Its push in Brussels had the desired effect, but its push in Malta was a total flop. 

Having an extreme right-wing Austrian MEP from the Freedom Party describe Malta as some living example of a TV series about Columbia’s drug cartels was the sort of thing that made people in Malta cringe and groan with incredulity. Having MEPs attacking Malta as a facetious tax haven – when both Maltese political parties agree that it is not – did not help, either.

People have their feet on the ground and no hyped-up comments in the European Parliament can make them dismiss the ‘feel good’ factor that abounds today in Malta. In the Mintoff days, people felt really bad and saw the PN as their only beacon of hope. There is no such sensation now. 

Yet it seems that there are too many in the PN who think that all they need to do to win votes is just to replay recordings of Eddie Fenech Adami’s speeches before 1987. 

Malta was different then: demographically, in its opportunities for employment and in the general level of education of the population, besides other factors of its social milieu. There were no social media then, either. Slips of the tongue by politicians did not go viral then. Depicting all of them as Freudian slips or shows of ignorance was not on then. 

Facebook, Twitter and U–tube changed all this with people giving more importance to silly slips than to realistic policies and statements by serious influential people.

At the same time, trying to hype and exaggerate things to make the current situation seem like a carbon copy of the situation under Mintoff’s regime is a completely idiotic thing to do.

"Delia should continue on the policy of explaining the need for reforms in our constitutional structures and systems of checks and balances"
The country has moved on much more than the PN seems to realise.

Alfred Sant

I was struck by the way former Prime Minsiter Alfred Sant described the allegations against Malta when he spoke in the European Parliament.

He was reported as saying that Malta was being “assailed for perceived deficiencies in the rule of law on the basis of jumbled facts and semi-facts, unproven allegations taken at face value, innuendoes and issues irrelevant to the rule of law.” I wonder whether he took this from his own handbook he used in the run-up to the 1996 election. These were exactly the methods he used to attack the then PN government and win his short-lived term in office.

What was wrong then is also wrong now.

michaelfalzon
Michael Falzon is a former government minister who served under several Nationalist admini...
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