[WATCH] Adrian Delia fires warning shot on SOFA: ‘Malta must not give up sovereignty’

PN leader Adrian Delia lambasts government for seemingly agreeing to a Status of Forces Agreement with the US without consulting the Opposition • AD/PD and Graffitti critical of SOFA

PN leader Adrian Delia
PN leader Adrian Delia

Adrian Delia has warned against Malta ceding its sovereignty in any agreement it may reach with the US as he lambasted the government for failing to consult with the Opposition.

The Nationalist Party leader said it was worrying that Robert Abela's government was being forced into a Status of Forces Agreement because the country risked failing the Moneyval test.

"The government first sullied Malta's reputation and is now paying the price of its incompetence and corruption... Prime Minister Robert Abela has to tell us whether an agreement has been reached and what it contains," Delia told MaltaToday, insisting the Opposition could only engage in a discussion if it knew what was in the agreement.

But Delia said Malta must not "give up an inch" from its sovereignty, adding he could not understand how someone could even contemplate threatening the country's neutrality. He accused Abela of being evasive when confronted by journalists on Tuesday.

Earlier, the Nationalist Party expressed concern over reports that Cabinet has decided to support the Status of Forces Agreement with the US (SOFA) without so much as consulting the Opposition, despite the constitutional implications. 

Delia and Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Carm Mifsud Bonnici said the government must be transparent when it comes to Malta’s foreign policy.

They were referring to a report in Times of Malta that said Cabinet had already given its green light for a SOFA deal. The development comes just 24 hours before the US Defence Secretary Mark Esper visits Malta for talks with the government that will focus on SOFA and immigration.

Prime Minister Robert Abela insisted on Tuesday, a potential agreement on SOFA had nothing to do with Moneyval despite reports that the Americans were using their clout on the International Financial Action Task Force as leverage to push through the military deal.

READ ALSO: SOFA deal with Americans not linked to Moneyval test, Prime Minister insists

“What is being reported in today's Times, that the Cabinet has decided to support an agreement with the United States on SOFA without any kind of consultation with the Opposition is of concern, especially when such an agreement causes repercussions in relation to agreements we have with the rest of the other countries,” Delia said.

Delia said that Malta was independent and sovereign with neutrality and non-alignment clauses in its Constitution.

“Such a decision by the cabinet will also have an impact on the Constitution, which is the highest law of our country, and is a very important matterl that will have an impact on the sovereignty of Malta,” he said.

Delia said that the PM was obliged to explain the position of the government as well as the impact it will have on the country.  

“In view of what has been seen and published and its seriousness it would be wise for the Labour government to state clearly and unequivocally its intentions,” Delia said.

READ MORE: Americans put the heat on ministers with Moneyval test

SOFA betrays what Dom Mintoff stood for - Graffitti

The government's ambiguous stand was also criticised by the AD/PD alliance and political pressure group Graffitti.

Moviment Graffitti condemned the government for even entertaining the idea of agreeing to a SOFA with the US. The NGO said Malta’s Constitution clearly states that the island is neutral and explicitly prohibits foreign military forces on its territory.

"To this degree, US military personnel should not set foot in Malta, let alone be given impunity and ceding Maltese sovereignty over them. If the reports are correct, the Labour government would be betraying what Dom Mintoff and the Labour Party have fought for and achieved," Graffitti said.

A SOFA agreement would limit Malta’s jurisdiction over the US military in Malta and this was coming as an attempt to conceal the country's lax enforcement and inability to fight money laundering.

“Not only is this clearly unconstitutional, but it also makes Malta a promoter of war and military aggression. It is indeed sad to see that the Maltese government is ready to use nationalist slogans against the most vulnerable – asylum-seekers – but then accedes to an agreement that is humiliating to our country and against our interests,” it said.

Graffitti said President George Vella was legally and morally bound to reject this agreement due to its evident unconstitutionality.

AD/PD call for immediate publication

Meanwhile, AD and PD have called for a draft of any Status of Forces Agreement to be made public immediately. The party said it would be “unacceptable” for the PM, his cabinet and the opposition to reach an agreement secretly and avoid public scrutiny.

“For all we know the PL and PN have already come to an agreement and will rush a vote through Malta's Parliament. Any military defence agreements, or anti-smuggling operations, when and if necessary, should be made through a common EU defence cooperation mechanism, as a partnership amongst equals,” AD and PD said.

Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici categorically denied any agreement between the two parties, referring to AD and PD's statement as "lies and cheating."