[WATCH] Malta supports Frans Timmermans for European Commission president

What is the Prime Minister's future in Malta? 'I'm off to work because I have another appointment'

Joseph Muscat flanked by European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli and EU funds Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia, addressing social partners at MEUSAC. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Joseph Muscat flanked by European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli and EU funds Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia, addressing social partners at MEUSAC. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Joseph Muscat on his future and the EU's top jobs

Malta is supporting the nomination of the Socialists and Democrats, Frans Timmermans for the top post in the Brussels executive, Joseph Muscat said.

The Prime Minister was taking questions from journalists after addressing the social partners at a meeting of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee.

Asked about his own future in Malta, Muscat laughed off the question, insisting he was off to work because he had another appointment. It is an open secret that Muscat harbours the ambition to occupy a top EU post, although much depends on the complex negotiations underway.

Earlier, Muscat told the social partners that the choice of the next European Commission president was not about the name but the vision the person should have for the next five years.

EU leaders have been engaged in talks since the European Parliament elections last month to map out the who should fill the bloc’s top jobs.

The meeting with MEUSAC came ahead of this month’s EU leaders’ summit, which is supposed to decide on who should fill the bloc’s top posts.

EU leaders have so far indicated that they will reject the European People’s Party Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber.

The socialists and the liberals are arguing that despite ending up the biggest political grouping in parliament, the EPP does not command a majority among the pro-EU political spectrum.

Describing the forthcoming summit as “operational” in nature, Muscat said the decision that had to be taken was not just a question of who should occupy the post but what type of programme the bloc required for the next five years.

“We have to understand and decide on the type of vision the person occupying the European Commission president role should have,” Muscat told the social partners.

He said the outgoing European Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker had worked well, describing it as “one of the most effective in recent times”.

“The new commission will have a hard time to follow in the same footsteps but it will have new challenges. The commission will have to lead crucial negotiations on the EU budget, taking into account Brexit and proposing new directions of spending in innovation and investment,” Muscat said.

The Prime Minister said he was in favour of a revision of rules to incentivise the industrial sector in Europe.

“It is useless to say that we want to make the EU an industrial hub when the same rules underpinning the union prevent foreign investment from coming here,” he said, adding the next commission should target a “re-birth” of industrial Europe.

Another challenge the new commission will have to deal with is freedom of movement, he added.

“The EU needs a discussion on the Schengen agreement. We agree with Schengen but everybody recognises that this is now being tested to its limit. The other issue linked to free movement is immigration,” Muscat said.

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