Migration quotas true test of solidarity, says Muscat

Government to meet Skanska over claims on fraudulent cement tests

File photo: Migrants arrive in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo after being rescued off the coast of Lampedusa
File photo: Migrants arrive in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo after being rescued off the coast of Lampedusa

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has defended proposals for EU quotas on the redistribution of asylum seekers among member states.

“Those against such quotas are not seeing beyond the tip of their nose. If we say ‘no’ to the redistribution of asylum seekers to our own country, the EU will only criticise us for wanting solidarity only when it suits us, and not because we truly believe in it. And if you believe in solidarity you have to work for it,” Muscat said.

He said he preferred a system that gave him peace of mind in the case of an emergency. “There are proposals for an emergency redistribution key of migrants, or a permanent system… we have reached an important stage in talks and the Commission will be working on this plan.”

Turning to the findings of the inquiry report by retired judge Philip Sciberras, which revealed that tests into the concrete laid at Mater Dei Hospital in 1996 had been fraudulent, Muscat berated the former Nationalist administration for its role in ignoring warnings on the concrete tests.

“We are waiting for the advice of the Attorney General, while the case is under the purview of the Commissioner of Police, as well as of the Auditor General,” Muscat said.

The prime minister said that Media.Link chief executive Brian St John, formerly the CEO of the Foundation for Medical Services, had failed in bringing Skanska to concede a €200,000 claim for damages due to the general waiver the FMS had granted the firm in the 2009 project closure agreement.

“We will have a meeting with Skanska, but we are ready to take this case to the Swedish authorities,” he said of the Swedish construction firm that built the general hospital.

Muscat also defended his government’s role in having allowed the first whistleblower to come forward under protection of the law, to testify against Anthony Debono. The husband of former Gozo minister Giovanna Debono is accused with misappropriation of public monies in commissioning private works while heading the Gozo ministry’s Construction and Maintenance Unit.

He accused the Opposition of picking and choosing its targets of criticism only when it suits them.

“Simon Busuttil first declared two hours into the whistleblower’s court testimony that he had confirmed his own version of the meeting between them; but after the testimony was over, issued a statement describing him as a ‘crook’. There is no consistency.

“The same goes for the PN’s criticism of the change in requirements for the accreditation of universities – once Martin Scicluna, chair of the national commission for higher education, declared that the changes were intended at fostering pluralism in higher education and not timed for the purposes of the American University of Malta, I now expect the PN to repeal its parliamentary motion on the legal notice.”

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