Just a bunch of lemmings… | Arnold Cassola

AD spokesperson on EU and International Affairs Arnold Cassola says Malta could be influential but lacks the initiative

Arnold Cassola
Arnold Cassola

Despite Malta's small size, Arnold Cassola, the green party's spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, says the country wields an extraordinary amount of influential power but doesn't use it.

"The problem is that Malta has a tendency to lack initiative and only take a position only after larger countries have decided their position. It was impossible for Malta not to be on the frontline during the Arab Spring but the Maltese only reacted after other larger countries.

"AD is more outspoken and would be more proactive. If Malta does not take the lead, the country needs to be conscious of its position and ensure voices are heard," Cassola says.

However, Cassola admits that the foreign minister has a hard task because his or her position calls for representation of the whole country.

"On the whole, the government and foreign ministry have done some commendable work and given appropriate relevance to international issues. Spokespersons like myself and the Labour Party's have an easier time when speaking up or criticising because we represent our parties and not the whole country.

"But, referring to the situation in Syria, Libya and Egypt, we can't be equidistant between those shooting and those being shot at in order for us to remain neutral," Cassola says.

He also says that silence can also be a hindrance in itself and would simply give carte-blanche to the continued shooting of civilians.

"The Maltese government spoke against the suppression by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but lacks the courage to speak to the Chinese and Russian representatives about the veto which means they are all, including Malta, giving the carte-blanche to continued shooting of civilians," Cassola says.

Cassola also points out that, like other countries, Malta made no reference to the protests in Bahrain last year or the more recent clashes this week which resulted in doctors being arrested for curing the injured.

"The Maltese government should be proactive in its approach and prioritise their agenda. Malta tends to align itself with the majority," Cassola adds.

Referring to Malta's current political situation, Cassola says that it is not normal and the uncertainty has been felt by the people.

"Whatever the government says, the crisis has affected the Maltese people. A government should not be holding onto power but exercising it. The government is currently just hanging on to how Franco Debono decides to vote, if at all.

"If we're going to have continuous episodes of indecisiveness and have to hold on to the speaker's vote for 15 months, the only end, for the benefit of the country, would be to call for general elections," he explains.

Saying that parliament is being unnecessarily delayed because of political instability, Cassola also said that when it comes to EU agreements, like ACTA, the Maltese parliament cannot continue to work on a "part-time basis".

"Tonio Fenech's excuse is that he sent the ACTA documents out to MUESAC members but no one responded, and so there were no objections... which is why it was signed.

"It is ridiculous. One cannot expect to resolve issues by sending out emails. This actually goes to show how impotent our parliament is. Our parliament is made up of part-timers and cannot continue handling the daily running of countries," Cassola stressed.

Cassola says that MPs don't have time to debate agreements before being signed which means the government does not really know what has been signed until after it has been signed.

"Both the government and parliament should be full-time and not working in parliament as though it is a part-time hobby. When it comes to agreements like ACTA, Malta's parliament should open an office in the EU parliament like every other country has done. Malta is the only country without an office," he says.

He explains that an office would allow parliament to highlight new documents for discussions before anything is approved.

"The government currently reacts after the approval of documents. We could easily be influencing the building process of such directives. Parliament needs to know what is being discussed and can do this with a full-time parliament office.

"I also believe that the Committee of EU and foreign affairs should be working full-time to examine documents of proposed laws because they currently don't have time. Then, when passed by the EU, they say, 'Iiiiii madoff! We didn't know!' when they had the opportunity to discuss them for six months," Cassola says.