Gonzi 'not satisfied' with EU’s €680 million offer

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi says EU offer to increase Malta’s funding allocation to €680 million is “unsatisfactory”.

Nestor Laiviera
25 November 2012, 12:00am
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi describes the €680 million offer as
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi describes the €680 million offer as "unsatisfactory" while not saying whether Malta will be accepting or rejecting it.
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi slams the EU's offer to go beyond the original €480 million budget allocation by an additional €200 million as "unsatisfactory."

At the same time, Gonzi said that the increased offer represents an important step for Malta, insisting that the special allocation of €200 million shows that the EU "recognises and accepts" Malta's arguments.

However, Gonzi said that he is still "not happy" with the offer, and insisted that the EU needs to be appreciative of Malta's results which it was able to achieve thanks to EU funding.

Gonzi did not say whether Malta would be accepting or rejecting this offer, however.

The Prime Minister insisted that the EU benefits if Malta keeps being a success story, pointing to Malta's stand on Libya and immigration.

Gonzi also rejected international reports which suggested that the negotiations were mired in arguments and disagreements, and insisted instead that the negotiations ended with an agreement.

The agreement, Gonzi said, was for EU Council President Herman Von Rompuy to continue working on what was discussed so that, in the coming weeks, the respective member states "can reach a final agreement."

Gonzi noted that the negotiations depend on several factors, among which are those member states who are insisting on the need to reduce EU funding, and those member states insisting on the need to retain cohesion funding.

Gonzi said that he remains "optimistic" about the negotiations, while also stressing that Malta approached the negotiating table with the stand that it is "unacceptable" that its funding allocation of €800 million is halved to €480 million.

Gonzi was speaking during a political activity held in Qrendi, where he fielded questions from various medical professionals.

He was flanked by both candidates to the PN Deputy Leader election, with MEP Simon Busuttil to his left, and Finance Minister Tonio Fenech to his right.

Asked about when the PN Government plans to introduce the dementia medication on the free medicines register, the Nationalist Leader broke months of silence on the issue to announce that it will now be available as from Friday of next week.

"We recognised that one of the most vicious conditions is dementia," Gonzi said, referring to how elderly people are robbed of their memories.

"We took a decision that will cost us a lot of money. We decided that this particular pill, to put it on the list of free medicines," Gonzi said amid applause.

Gonzi added that "the order was made, it has arrived in Malta, as from Friday of next week, competent medical professionals will be able to apply under schedule five and be given this medication."

He added that this decision shows that the government is making "responsible decisions."

Asked about the importance of medical professionals involved in rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy, Gonzi stressed that both he and the PN "consider these professionals, who are allies of the health industry, as indispensable. We cannot do without them."

He added that the PN is very aware that "we need more specialisations in different health sectors," and added that these are

Gonzi said that both the University of Malta and MCAST made "great steps forward" in offering courses related to such careers, and said "Malta should do its best to keep going forward."

At the same time, Gonzi insisted, "this it is easier said then done," and insisted that such courses cost millions in expansions, courses, staff, and investment.

Gonzi also referred to a recently-published report issued by OECD, an "a serious and reputable international organisation that specialises in economic development and cooperation" ranked several countries in terms of longevity and quality of life enjoyed by citizens.

Gonzi said that with regards to these classifications, Malta was ranked among the top EU countries, with Maltese women placing first in this classification, while Maltese men placing second.

The Nationalist Leader said that this was achieved by means of investments in the health sector that have enabled these advances.

"This is not just for Nationalists. But for Nationalists, Labourites, those who are apolitical, and those who are rich or poor. The Nationalist Party has showed that with it in government, the health sector expands and advances," Gonzi insisted.

He insisted that Malta was able to achieve this despite being surrounded by an EU-wide crisis for five years during which other countries shut down hospitals and cut down on benefits and medical assistance.

"We were the only country in the EU, along with Germany, to increase the expenditure in the health sector. This is because we made the responsible decisions," the Prime Minister emphasised.

Gonzi also fielded several questions about specialised medical professionals, cancer research and treatment, and the medical graduate foundation specialisation programme.

He however avoided answering several questions, such how a PN Government will limit the brain drain currently manifesting itself within the medical sector, and how it will guarantee job security and post-graduate courses for specialist medical professionals.

Gonzi also attacked Labour intermittently throughout his address on several points, ranging from their stand on the Mater Dei hospital, to their support of the contentious Sargas technology proposal.