[WATCH] Inequality is malaise feeding nationalists in Europe, Muscat says
Joseph Muscat: 'We should stop blaming people and instead tackle the malaise that's a result of an unequal distribution of wealth inside, but also outside the EU'
11 January 2017, 3:27pm
EU border control leads to successful burden sharing
Muscat was addressing a press conference with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, following a meeting at Castille.
Malta holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the six months through June, with a special ceremony planned for Wednesday evening to mark the official handover from Slovakia.
Muscat said he was confident the other 27 member states would maintain a united front throughout the negotiations and that rarely had he seen such unanimous agreement on dealing with an issue.
Juncker said Britain's decision to leave the European Union was not the beginning of the end, saying the Union was stronger now than ever.
Muscat said Malta has no delusions of grandeur about Malta's presidency, saying the country will try to promote issues that could make a difference in the lives of people.
Migration remains at the top of Malta's agenda but Muscat said the EU does not have a silver bullet at this time to deal with the problem.
Juncker said the Commission was looking forward to Malta's presidency and insisted it shared Malta's concerns on migration and burden sharing. "I am pleased that the Maltese government, more than other presidencies, intends to focus on social issues within the internal market," he said.
In response to questions from the press, Juncker said he had not interfered in the European Commission's decision today to give the green light to Malta's LNG power plant in Delimara, saying the contract did not go against the EU's state aid rules.
On his part, Muscat said border control was crucial to Malta and the rest of the EU, and would lead to an honest debate on burden-sharing. He said Malta was one of the few countries that had called for burden-sharing when in need, but also now, when other countries are in that situation.
"Solidarity is not an à la carte sentiment," he said. "We preached it when we needed it, and we're practising it when other countries need it."
On the matter of xenophobia and the rise of nationalism, Muscat said that in an era of political correctness, people may have become immune to reality. "We should stop blaming people and instead tackle the malaise that's a result of an unequal distribution of wealth inside, but also outside the EU."
Juncker said this is the sixth visit to Malta and joked that he beat Muscat when campaigning against the Labour Party in the run-up to Malta's referendum on EU membership. When Muscat said that they had both won in the end, Juncker agreed. "You are a winner locally, I am a winner globally."
Paul Cocks joined MaltaToday after having spent years working in newspapers with The Times...