On being a captive colony

The people who campaigned for Brexit had no idea on how to go about it… the British have now discovered it was all pie in the sky

The people who campaigned for Brexit had no idea how to go about it. Boris Johnson, before he handed in his resignation as Foreign Secretary on Monday
The people who campaigned for Brexit had no idea how to go about it. Boris Johnson, before he handed in his resignation as Foreign Secretary on Monday

NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg could barely finish the greetings at breakfast on Wednesday when US President Donald Trump launched into a clearly planned attack aimed at Germany, one of the alliance’s most important members.

“Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump told the startled Stoltenberg at the opening of the NATO summit meeting. “We have to talk about the billions and billions of dollars that’s being paid to the country we’re supposed to be protecting you against.”

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, reacted to Trump’s remarks, noting that she grew up in Soviet-occupied East Germany: “I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,”

As she entered the NATO building, Merkel said. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions, and that’s very good.”

I have the feeling that many politicians in the Western world – people who have never experienced life at the wrong end of colonialism – do not appreciate what being controlled by another country actually means.

This mantra of Britain being a vassal of another country or group of countries is still being sung by Brexiteers in the UK. Despite the great problems that the Brexit ‘project’ has encountered, these Brexiteers keep on repeating that the EU has made the UK a ‘vassal’ of Germany and France.

According to current propaganda by the Conservative Party in the UK, the Brexit that Theresa May is currently seeking means:

• Leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019.

• A complete end to freedom of movement, taking back control of our borders.

• An end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, restoring the supremacy of British courts.

• No more sending vast sums of money each year to the EU – instead a Brexit dividend to spend on domestic priorities like a long-term plan for the NHS.

• Frictionless trade in goods and flexibility on services.

• No hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland – or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

• A parliamentary lock on all new rules and regulations.

• A commitment to maintain high standards on consumer and employment rights and the environment.

• Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

• The freedom to strike new trade deals around the world.

• Continued security co-operation to keep people safe.

• An independent foreign and defence policy.

Even if the current situation justifies these gripes – and I disagree with this – EU membership is certainly no colonialist-colony relationship as some old British Tory grandees insist on making it out to be.

Malta’s colonial experience (at the hands of the British, no less) clearly indicates that as a colony, we did not ‘decide our own policies and make our own decisions’ – to echo Merkel’s rejoinder to Trump.

Up to the last day of British colonialism, decisions concerning Malta were being taken in Westminster in the interests of the UK – and not in the interests of Malta.

That is what being a colony means.

The relationship of shared sovreignty that defines the European Union is completely different. Each member state participates in the decsion making process and takes care to safeguard its own narrow interests – precisely the reason why the EU cannot find a meaningful common policy on the immigration issue. There are no one-sided impositions without participation in the decision-making process – as the Brexiteers allege.

There are countries, such as Norway, that do not take part in the EU decision making process because they have opted not to be EU members. But they are at a disadvantage, actually, because when trading with EU member states, they have to follow EU rules while taking no part in the formulation of these same rules.

Even so, the people of Norway or Switzerland do not think that their countries are ‘vassals’ of the EU.

Meanwhile, this obsession has led the UK into a veritable corner, since it is now more than obvious that the Brexiteers can’t have the cake and eat it.

Even more obscene is the fact that the people who campaigned for Brexit had no idea on how to go about it and fooled the majority of British voters into believing that this will be as easy as apple pie.

The British have now discovered it was all pie in the sky!

 

Population growth

According to the EU’s statistics institute, Eurostat, the population of Malta increased by 15,700 in 2017, over 15 times the rate in the EU when adjusted for the size of the population. This brought the population up to 475,700, which is a rise of 32.9 residents per 1,000 over the previous year – much more than in other member states that also registered an increase in their population.

It is all well and good to say that Malta’s population boom comes amid a growing economy which has necessitated more foreign workers and for our Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, to insist that if Malta is to sustain its economic growth it needs an influx of foreigners.

The massive inflow of non-Maltese workers is a game-changing event in our country but it is taking us far too long time to understand its deep implications because most of this change is yielding positive results at present.

Amongst other things, this population growth is sustaining our building boom and the inflation in the rental market.

The problem is that this growth is unplanned and unregulated and no one seems to be thinking on how to rein in the horses, when they have to be reined in – lest they go beserk.

Our building policies, for example, were not drawn up with such an increase of population in mind and that counts for our infrastructure targets too.

There are many positives as a result of this sudden increase in population but someone, somewhere, has to start thinking on how to adjust for the negative impacts – and even plan beforehand for the future.

Suddenly we find out that the Marsa junction needs a seven-level intersection and that we have to widen all our roads, decimating a number of trees in the process.

But planning, of course, was always anathema in Malta where improvisation has always ‘solved’ our problems!

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