Roberta Metsola: ‘I expect Malta to take in more refugees from Gaza’

Metsola: ‘I’m not pro-war, it’s Robert Abela who speaks differently when he is in Brussels’

RTK host Andrew Azzopardi with EP president Roberta Metsola
RTK host Andrew Azzopardi with EP president Roberta Metsola

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said Malta should be taking in more refugees from Gaza, as she fielded questions on her stance in supporting Israel’s right to self-defence during her visit to the country following the 7 October 2023 attacks by Hamas.

Metsola, interviewed in Brussels by RTK host Andrew Azzopardi, this week said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was catastrophic and that every single killing should be condemned.

Queried on her initial stance defending Israel’s response to the Hamas killings, which has now led to the bombings and death of over 30,000 Gazans at the hands of the IDF, Metsola said the EP had been the only institution to call for a permanent ceasefire.

“We are a the sole institution, not even the Council or the UN, has approved a permanent ceasefire,” she said, referring to the resolution that also makes the permanent ceasefire conditional provided the terrorist organisation Hamas is dismantled.

“If the bombs do not stop – and that’s what I said in Israel to its president, for I did not meet [Benjamin] Netanyahu as did [Joseph] Muscat or [Robert] Abela… indeed I expect more refugees from Gaza to be taken in by Malta – we are now awaiting the process in the Hague to see that political responsibility is shouldered,” Metsola said.

“Even in this fog of war… amid the problems produced by Israeli settlers who claim the land for their own, criminal in its own right, we need to focus on the two-state solution for the Middle East.”

Not pro-war

Metsola pointed out that she had become the target of Abela’s criticism on statements she recently made about bolstering European defence resources in the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine. “I see the way One News portrays me in these black-and-white visuals... but Abela keeps mentioning me week after week, and yet he still signs up to the Council conclusions on defence, he does not abstain or say no to them, so he talks a different game in Malta in contrast to what happens in Brussels.”

Metsola’s EPP Group is a major supporter of a European Defence Union in which member states can increase cooperation and coordination around defence, align strategically, and share a common understanding of threats.

The Nationalist MEP then held up press cuttings of Abela boasting of the AFM’s investment in a new patrol boat, suggesting that the PM’s tub-thumping and denouncing her as being pro-war was akin “to a commander-in-chief utterly throwing away his own army”.

“He wants to say Robert is in favour of war. Is there anyone who believes I am in favour of war when Europe is a project built on peace?”

Leadership ambitions and Muscat

Metsola kept her options open over any potential leadership bid or retaining her role in Brussels as president of the European Parliament.

The Nationalist MEP said she would fulfil her mandate as MEP until the June elections, and said that any agreement on her serving a second term as president of the EP would be dependent on the electoral outcomes of the coming month. “I do not speculate (on becoming leader)... my job here is to execute my mandate,” she said.

Metsola was asked about the prospect of former Labour prime minister running for MEP, whom she famously refused to shake his hand during the December 2019 crisis when she accopanied a rule of law mission from the EP. She was then not yet president of the EP.

“The same circumstances present at that time remain in Malta,” she said. “Justice [for Daphne Caruana Galizia] has not yet been made.”

Metsola said Caruana Galizia was “murdered by the system”. “A courageous journalist and mother was killed because the system failed her. Look at what politicians did to her. Why should I shake Muscat’s hand?”

Metsola also said that she was visiting various member states across Europe in a bid to get the vote out for June’s European elections, fearing high abstention rates as well as a lurch to the far-right in various countries.

“It is our responsiblity to reach out to as many people as possible, to be ready to answer difficult questions, and explain why fishers and farmers in Malta are asking about what funds we have reaped from the EU, or why young people and families are not keeping up with the cost of living.”

Metsola said the prospect of a far-right surge concerned her insofar as it could fill in a political void left unattended by mainstream parties. “I want to speak to the people who do not want to vote... I want to convince as many people as possible, especially in Malta, to build on a message of hope for Europe.”

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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