PM ‘against backroom deals’, supports Juncker’s nomination

Malta’s Prime Minister reiterates call for a new policy on irregular migration.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Jean-Claude Juncker (Photo: Clifton Fenech/DOI)

Malta will be supporting the nomination of Jean Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission because Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is “against any backroom deals”.

It is likely that next week’s meeting of the European Council will see Juncker – the EPP nominee – approved as the new President of the European Commission.

Muscat expects a majority of EU leaders would vote for Juncker after the European People’s Party won the most European Parliament seats in last month’s elections.

Addressing a meeting of the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee ahead of next week’s meeting of the European Council, Muscat said the EU could not afford to go longer without a Commission chief.

“I am against any backroom deals and Malta will be supporting Juncker’s nomination. As the bloc that received the majority of votes, the EPP should have the opportunity to form a majority as soon as possible,” Muscat said.

Juncker, Luxembourg’s former prime minister, appears to enjoy the majority of votes in the European Parliament and there seems to be a majority among the EU’s heads of states and governments ready to support his nomination.

Ten countries, including Malta, will meet tomorrow in France to discuss Juncker’s nomination and the agenda the European Commission should adopt.

According to Muscat, it is high time for the Commission to review its methodology when it comes to analyse a country’s financial standing: “Should funds spent in education be excluded from the excessive deficit procedure?”

The Prime Minister said the European Commission must now focus on job creation and policies that incentivise work and investment. “It must abandon austerity measures which hinder economic growth and move towards policies that allow the creation of jobs and long-term investment.”

Next week’s summit is expected to focus on irregular migration with Italy calling on the European Union to help with the Operation Mare Nostrum. Italy has threatened to suspend the operation or remove its detention system – allowing rescued migrants to proceed to mainland Europe – if the EU fails to act once again.

“No one must think that the EU has tackled irregular migration because we had very few arrivals. Malta’s Armed Forces have been heavily involved in rescuing migrants while Italy has been taking them in. It has now become the norm to see between 20 and 30 boats crossing the Mediterranean at any given time,” Muscat said.

The Council will also be discussing Energy, in light of the latest developments between Russia and Ukraine. Muscat is urging the European Union to diversify its energy supply and seek opportunities in the Mediterranean.

Next week Malta will host a summit of the EU’s energy ministers who will be meeting their Mediterranean counterparts.

“Malta has the potential to become an energy hub and EU countries can tap into North Africa’s resources by also investing in renewable energy,” he said.

Muscat argued that energy cooperation with North Africa should not be limited to importation of fossil fuels or gas but also interconnections.

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