Neutrality ‘adequately safeguarded’, State Advocate tells government on EU defence conclusions

State Advocate advice to government says that neutrality as enshrined in Malta's Constitution is safeguarded by wording of EU summit conclusions that call for increased defence spending by the bloc

Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela (right) speaking to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the EU summit in Brussels
Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela (right) speaking to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the EU summit in Brussels

Malta’s constitutional neutrality is “adequately safeguarded” in the European Council conclusions on defence, according to written advice given by the State Advocate obtained by MaltaToday. 

The advice was requested by the Prime Minister’s Head of Secretariat Glenn Micallef in the days preceding the Brussels summit held last week, which discussed security and defence matters. 

The Council conclusions agreed by all EU leaders, including the Maltese Prime Minister, called for increased defence expenditure in the wake of Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine. 

However, the conclusions also included two clauses that called for respect towards each country’s security and defence policy. 

Robert Abela told journalists on Friday Malta had raised concerns over the summit conclusion wording and the need to conform with the Constitution. Malta, along with Ireland and Austria, is a neutral country. Abela said the government had obtained written advice from the State Advocate prior to agreeing with the conclusions. 

MaltaToday asked to see the written advice given to the government, which consisted of an email exchange between Glenn Micallef and the office of the State Advocate. 

The advice reads: “In the view of this Office, these conclusions adequately safeguard Malta’s constitutional neutrality, in view of the non-committal wording regarding the funding of military support in paragraph 4 – ‘including the possibility of funding military support’, and also considering the caveat contained in para. 5 according to which ‘Military support and EU security commitments will be provided in full respect of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and taking into account the security and defence interests of all Member States.’ Hence, provided that such features – and particularly the safeguard in para. 5 - are retained, Malta’s constitutional neutrality may be deemed to be adequately safeguarded by the Conclusions.” 

Defence and security have become hot topics in the run-up to the European Parliament elections next June with the European People’s Party insisting on the need for increased defence spending and the creation of specific executive portfolio dealing with defence. 

Abela had criticised EP President Roberta Metsola earlier this year, calling her a warmonger for emphasizing the need to boost EU defence spending. 

Metsola’s remarks are reflected in the conclusions that EU leaders agreed to in last week’s summit, albeit with caveats that protect the interests of neutral countries like Malta.