Where the parties stand | Foreign Policy

Foreign policy has been relegated to the sidelines of the campaign. But how wise is this, considering the vast changes happening around us in Europe and North Africa, JAMES DEBONO asks?

Lawrence Gonzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Lawrence Gonzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

One reason for the lack of foreign policy debate in this election is the consensus on Malta's future as an EU Member State.

This was already the case in the 2008 general election until former Labour leader Alfred Sant promised to re-open the EU package with regards the future of the dockyard.

During the electoral campaign Gonzi stole the limelight by clinching a €1.12 billion deal in EU funds under new budget.

But the lack of any substantial debate on Malta's relationship with the EU contrasts with the growing debate between those advocating a greater unity and those advocating a looser union within Europe which is currently facing its greatest crisis since its inception.

A referendum in Britain in 2017 on whether to remain an EU Member State could also deprive Malta of one of its closest allies in opposing the harmonisation of tax policies with regards to banks and financial transactions.

Moreover, the Mediterranean dimension has taken a greater importance amidst the hopes generated by the Arab spring even if the return to authoritarianism in Egypt and growing unrest in Tunisia and Libya could derail the process.

While the Arab Spring, and particularly Malta's active diplomatic role during the Libyan crisis, represent Gonzi's best claim to statesmanship, instability in Libya still remains a problem for Maltese businesses operating there.

Despite the lack of substantial foreign policy debate, the party's manifestos still display some differences in emphasis with the PN and AD giving a different interpretation of neutrality emphasising that this should not preclude Malta from an active stance against human rights abuses.

Contrary to European socialists, Labour distinguishes itself by a more nationalistic stance opposing any attempts to harmonise taxation in the EU, a stance which contrasts with AD's support for an EU wide Tobin tax.