Updated | Joseph Muscat says Adrian Delia has taken step back in his support for Gozo tunnel

As he presented Labour's European election manifesto, Joseph Muscat said that during a debate between the two, Adrian Delia appeared to rethink his position on the Gozo tunnel, saying he would decide once studies are finished

Joseph Muscat unveiling the Labour Party's European elections manifesto
Joseph Muscat unveiling the Labour Party's European elections manifesto

Updated at 7.15pm with Nationalist Party reaction

Joseph Muscat has accused Adrian Delia of taking a step back in his support for the tunnel linking Gozo to Malta.

The Prime Minister said that during a debate earlier on Thursday with Adrian Delia on Xtra - which will be broadcast on TVM tonight - the Opposition leader appeared to rethink his backing of the project, saying he would make a final decision once all studies are concluded.

Muscat, who was speaking during the presentation of the Labour Party's European elections manifesto this afternoon, said that the issue of the tunnel project had been decided conclusively when Parliament unanimously voted in favour of it in April.

"It seems like Adrian Delia somewhat retracted his position regarding the Gozo tunnel during a debate we had today. He said he would decide on the matter after the studies were finished, although Parliament already approve it unanimously," Muscat said.

Labour MEP candidates will keep chasing every vote, Muscat said
Labour MEP candidates will keep chasing every vote, Muscat said

Read also: Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia face off in first ever debate tonight on Xtra

Muscat added that Labour MEPs would be working to ensure the permanent link with Gozo became part of Europe's TEN-T infrastructure.

'Opposition doing good job in raising expectations for government'

The Prime Minister said that, when it came to what results to expect from the MEP elections, the Opposition had been "doing a good job of raising expectations for the government and lowering them for the Nationalist Party".

He remarked that there had been a lot of talk of a large majority for the PL, but, if one considered the 2014 European elections, while Labour obtained almost 54% of votes in their favour, the PN still got three seats in the European Parliament elections due to the Maltese electoral system.

Within this context, Muscat said Labour MEPs would ensure to keep up their drive during the electoral campaign.

"In light of this, we will be keeping our feet on the ground, and this gives us the impetus to keep having direct contact with people during our campaign," he said.

Push for more effective migrant relocation and repatriation system

Labour's electoral manifesto emphasised that its MEPs would ensure that any decision they took in Europe would be in Malta's interest, and that they would never seek to damage Malta for political reasons.

The manifesto touches on various areas, including migration, Labour MEPs' continued opposition to tax harmonisation efforts, their plans to push for pro-environmental measures including those which reduce the use of plastic, and the government's commitment to establishing special electricity rates for those who charged their electric cars at home.

On migration, Muscat reitereated that while the government would be taking all necessary steps to save people whose lives were in danger and would be observing all its international obligations, it would nonetheless be ensuring that Malta's interests were safeguarded. He highlighted that the government did not agree with the Opposition's stand that the country should become a centre for migrants.

The manifesto sets out that Labour MEPs will work to strengthen the EU's solidarity mechanism in this regard, and to see to it that member states which are more exposed to migration or take on more of the burder than other countries be compensated.

It goes on to underline that PL europarliamentarians will strive for a more effective relocation and repatriation system, instead of the ad hoc allocation of migrants across member states as is happening at the moment.

Final decision on Gozo tunnel only after studies and consultation take place - PN

In a reaction to Muscat's comments on the Gozo tunnel, the Nationalist Party said that while it had been consistent in its backing of an adequate connection between Malta and Gozo, it had never given a carte blanche to the government to do as it pleased without all studies being completed and before a serious consultation with all stakeholders takes place.

“A serious process demands that all studies are undertaken, a consultation on them take places, and that it be only after this that a final decision be made for work on the project to start,” the PN said.

It underlined that it was in favour of the principle of connectivity between Malta and its sister island, but that it wanted to ensure that Gozo’s and Gozitans’ interests were safeguarded, together with those of environmental sustainability and good governance.

“In Parliament, the Opposition tabled amendments to the government’s tunnel motion, and required from the government that it publish all studies which have already been finalised, and that other studies continue and be published once completed,” the party said.

“The Opposition also requested that the government ensure that all necessary studies take place, such as the Environmental Impact Assessment, the Strategic Environment Assessment, and studies on the possibility of a mass-transport system. It also insisted that a serious public consultation process be held before a final decision is reached.”