Malta will not join EU army, but will not block proposal

Joseph Muscat says he is skeptical about EU army proposal, adamant that Malta will not join any such army   

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has categorically come out against the possibility of Malta joining a future EU army, arguing that such a move will run counter with the island’s constitutional neutrality.

However, he said that he will not stand in the way of other EU countries who want to merge their armed forces into one single common army.

“I am personally skeptical about an EU army and wouldn’t want conscription at local level for an EU army, yet why should Malta stop other member states who have borders with particular countries and want to merge their forces?” he said.

The European Parliament is currently debating ways to strengthen its common foreign and security policy, and member states earlier this month agreed to set up new headquarters to supervise its military training missions in Africa.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil last week urged EU member states to seriously consider merging their armed forces, questioning whether it still made sense for the 28 member states to each have a separate army.

Muscat was answering questions posed by outgoing Chamber of Commerce president Anton Borg during a meeting with businesspeople at the Chamber’s headquarters.

He came out in favour of a European Commission proposal for a “multi-speed” Europe, but only so long as it doesn’t lead to the formation of a “club within a club”. 

“I don’t want a situation whereby the big boys get to cherry-pick who they want inside their own club. Rather, schemes should be attached with a set of criteria that, if reached, will automatically entitle a member state to join it.”

However, he warned that this is likely to lead to pressure for the Eurozone to develop into a more political union.

“We must discuss whether this will be in Malta’s best interests. I don’t think it will, and I think we should keep hold of our crucial policy aspects.”

‘Brexit: A delicate balance must be struck’

Muscat earlier on struck a cautiously confident tone on the EU’s upcoming negotiations with the UK over Brexit, which are set to start once British Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 on Wednesday.

He cited Pope Francis, who praised the EU as a “human union” on occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.

“There was a horrific terrorist attack in London last week, but European people didn’t care whether the attack took place in the UK or in any other EU country,” he said. “There is no Brexit from solidarity, and it proved that the EU is a constant that cannot be undone by institutional or legal means. There is a bond between its people that cannot be undone and that will continue to exist.”

On a more pragmatic note, he said that he would like Malta and the UK to maintain access to each other’s markets but that the UK shouldn’t be allowed access to the single market while unbound from EU bureaucracy.

“We cannot allow non-EU countries to trade within the single market while enjoying more competitive rules,” he said.

Earlier, outgoing Chamber president Anton Borg warned that the disruption of trade between Malta and the UK could have severe repercussions on the local economy.

“We understand the government’s position to favour a deal that is less favourable than membership, however, we urge you to tell the European Council that notable disruptions to present trade practices and costs will have severe repercussions on the economy,” Borg said. “Europe’s negotiators must go to any necessary length to preserve trade and business relationships between Europe and the UK.”

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