Malta to ‘wait and see’ before deciding on PESCO defence pact, Muscat says

Malta not losing any security safeguards through not joining EU defence pact PESCO, Prime Minister says in European Council comments

Malta should wait to see what form PESCO will take before deciding on joining, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in comment during the ongoing European Council Summit
Malta should wait to see what form PESCO will take before deciding on joining, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in comment during the ongoing European Council Summit

Malta will choose prudence and wait to see how the Permanent Structured Cooperation in Defence (PESCO) structure develops before joining, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the European Council on Friday.

Muscat said PESCO membership for Malta could potentially conflict with the country’s constitutional neutrality.

The Prime Minister said in a comment during the ongoing European Council Summit in Brussels, that nothing stopped Malta from joining PESCO at a later date, and that he did not foresee any particular neutrality-related issue related to membership, but it was not known exactly how the defence pact would work.

“It needs to be seen whether PESCO is simply a system by which weapon purchases by European countries are more coordinated, or if it is going to take a more military form,” Muscat said, noting that the EU Treaty already granted Malta the certainty that, in case of the need for military or security assistance, it could invoke the solidarity clause through which other EU countries would be bound to help it.

Through not joining PESCO, Malta was not in any way reducing its security, and it was still keeping all the safeguards which were negotiated in the Accession Treaty, Muscat emphasised.

Turning to immigration, Muscat said that Malta had implemented 100% of what it had promised, adding that the concept of every member states being obliged to take in a certain number of migrants was very controversial and employed too limited a concept.

“There are countries, Malta amongst them, that put into practice all that they said they would do regarding immigration. We took in the numbers of migrants from Italy and Greece which we said we would. There were countries which did not do this. If this can be classified as a success or not is something relative,” Muscat said.

The Council was preparing for June next year when difficult discussions on this issue would again take place, he said, remarking that Donald Tusk had managed to get the wheel turning and create the necessary controversy for progress to be made.

With regards to Brexit , Muscat said he believed the Council would be giving its green light for the United Kingdom-EU negotiations to enter their next phase, and that Michael Barnier’s recommendations had always been headed by the Council, with there being no reason for there to be an exception in this case.

“This is Malta’s position in the issue,” the Prime Minister said, “It is now also up to the UK to explain exactly what it wants - while [British Prime Minister] Theresa May was very general in her Brexit talk in Florence, she now has to start entering into more detail.”

He highlighted that the EU now had to do its job, and the UK had to also had to make it clear what it wanted regarding a free trade agreement.

A security cooperation agreement wit the UK had to be undertaken, he maintained, since it was obvious that the UK and EU needed each other when it came to the security sphere.

“It is also obvious that, because of its situation, the UK needs Europe,” Muscat claimed.