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Five ways Joseph Muscat says the European Union ‘can be reconstructed’

A bitcoin continent, selling citizenship, a European social pact, an ‘anti-Brexit’ fund, and getting Turkey back on the road to EU accession

miriam
Miriam Dalli
24 February 2017, 7:57am
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was invited to address a forum on reconstructing the union (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was invited to address a forum on reconstructing the union (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)
Invited to a debate organised by CEPS ideas Lab on Thursday in Brussels, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ditched advice to be “diplomatically articulated”, and instead put on the cap of a European citizen “fed up of policymakers going round in circles”.

“I was strongly urged to deliver a well-prepared, diplomatically articulated, and strategically balanced speech, which I can assure you would have bored you to death.

“Instead, I have chosen to try to get into the spirit of this event by proposing ideas, some sensible, others risky, yet others which might sound, and be, outright insane,” Muscat told his audience.

Here are his ‘sensible, risky and insane’ proposals:

1. Europe should become the bitcoin continent

Joseph Muscat says now is the time for Europe to embark on another 'unthinkable' project
Joseph Muscat says now is the time for Europe to embark on another 'unthinkable' project
“Now is the time to double down with yet another unthinkable project. The rise of crypto currencies can be slowed but cannot be stopped. Some financial institutions are painstakingly accepting the fact that the system at the back of such transactions is much more efficient and transparent than the classical ones.

“My point is that rather than resist, European regulators should innovate and create mechanisms in which to regulate crypto currencies, in order to harness their potential and better protect consumers, while making Europe the natural home of innovators.”

2. Citizenship as an innovative policy tool

Controversial, yet something he ‘passionately’ believes in
Controversial, yet something he ‘passionately’ believes in
“This is, I admit, controversial. But it is also something I passionately believe in. When Malta introduced an innovative Citizenship by Investment programme in 2014, we were sneered upon by many. I realise that the mainstream concept of citizenship is as conservative as it might get, even to some of the most liberal minds I know. Speaking with the benefit of experience, I can say that citizenship can be one of the most innovative policy tools for any European Union member state.”

3. A European Social Pact

Joseph Muscat calls for a push in favour of promoting equality and social mobility(Photo: Europe Direct)
Joseph Muscat calls for a push in favour of promoting equality and social mobility(Photo: Europe Direct)
“Everyone, even keen free marketeers such as myself, now acknowledge that globalisation not only has its limits, but has created new inequalities. Now is the time for Europe to show it gets it, by agreeing to a European Social Pact that has to be the cornerstone to a Social Union aimed at promoting all types of equalities and social mobility.

“It is clear that at this point there is a clear majority of member states, but no unanimity, in favour of this project. Time is not on our side and I do not see any way forward other than a coalition of the willing, wanting to push forward this agenda. But it will be a start, and a solid start.”

4. The European Integration Brexit Fund

'It would be a political mistake to treat Brexit as an accounting transaction'
'It would be a political mistake to treat Brexit as an accounting transaction'
“We all know that one of the thorniest issues during the Brexit negotiations will be the exit fee that our British friends will have to settle. […] I submit that there needs to be a political agreement that a substantial part of this settlement, or its equivalent, be used to create a new European fund which will invest in communities which feel most detached from the European project.

“A programme that fights some of the main social and regional disparities that lead to Brexit-type phenomena.”

5. Open negotiations on Chapter 24 with Turkey

'It takes two to tango, but we need to be brave to achieve progress'
'It takes two to tango, but we need to be brave to achieve progress'
“A few days ago I had the Turkish Prime Minister as my guest. When I put forward the point of human rights and freedom of expression, he retorted that if the EU is so worried about this, we should then agree to open the chapter dealing with justice, freedom and security.

“You know what, I think he is right. If we are so concerned, and I would add that we are justified to be so, why not engage in meaningful discussions on Turkey adopting the European acquis in this area.

“So, it takes two to tango, but we need to be brave to achieve progress.”

CEPS is a leading ​think tank for debate on EU affairs and Muscat was one of the keynote speakers, alongside EU Commissioner Pierre Moscovici and former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta.

miriam
Miriam Dalli joined MaltaToday.com.mt in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...