'We are paying the price for hunting concessions' - Simon Busuttil

PN leader Simon Busuttil spoke at a conference about Malta's ten years in the EU

Speaking at a conference discussing Malta's experience since its accession to the EU, Simon Busuttil said that it was considerate to ask whether too many concessions were given to hunters at the time of Malta's debate on membership.

The European Parliament Information Office and The Today Public Policy Institute jointly organized the conference to discuss Malta's experience since its accession to the EU ten years ago.

The PN leader explained that the Nationalist Party, in government when Malta was deciding on membership to the EU, was under great pressure to get everyone on board with memberhip. The result was the spring derogation from the EU Birds Directive.

"At the time, the government considered this a worthwhile compromise," Busuttil said, "but we are now paying the price for it. It is legitimate to ask whether we gave them too many concessions"

Moving on to the issue of migration, Busuttil said, "I spent nine years as an MEP criticizing the EU for not doing enough with regards to migration." He made reference to a scathing blog post by former EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, wherein she wrote "when it comes to accepting refugees, solidarity between EU member states is still largely non-existent".

Referring to the US citizenship program, which resettles about 500 migrants a year, Busuttil said, "It is embarrassing to the European Union that the US is lifting our burden on our behalf."

Busuttil also discussed Malta's relationship with China and expressed reservations about the nature of that relationship. He was in favour of improving trade relations but was worried about the government's approach to fostering such relations, including the selling off of a large chunk of Enemalta and the sale of the BWSC power plant.

"No third country relations should put our relationship with the EU at risk," he said. "The EU should be at the forefront."

The Maltese are still somwhat divided on matters relating to the EU, including the IIP citizenship scheme and PM Joseph Muscat's threats to pushback migrants while urging the EU to take notice of the island's migration plights. But overall, according to the report prepared and launched by the Today Public Policy Institute, there was broad consensus that EU membership was a positive step.

On the topic of the EU presidency, which Malta is due to hold in 2017, Busuttil said that the PN had offered the government its expertise, gained through years of experience in dealing with the EU, but these offers were largely ignored. However, deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech later said that the government was willing to work with the Opposition in preparations for Malta's upcoming EU presidency. 

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