‘American University will definitely be split up’ – Muscat

Prime Minister says private university will be partially built in Marsaskala and partially elsewhere in the South. 

Joseph Muscat is addressing an audience of some 600 at Fort St Elmo
Joseph Muscat is addressing an audience of some 600 at Fort St Elmo

The controversial American University of Malta project will be split up, with part of it built in Marsaskala and another part somewhere else in the south, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has confirmed.  

Addressing a public consultation entitled ‘Gvern li Jisma’, Muscat said that the final proposal for the private university project will be “even better than the original one”.

He said that the government has paid heed to the recent historic protest against the construction of the private university at Zonqor Point and insisted that the split-up of MEPA will give the pro-environmental voice a “stronger authority than it has ever had”.

On the controversial strategic planning and environemtn (SPED) document that is being discussed in Parliament, he said that the MEPA Structure Plan was now 23 years old and long out of date.

“Construction on virgin land must be the absolute last resort, but what if we need to build a new hospital or a new school or other important national projects and can’t find another feasible location to construct them?” he questioned. “At the end of the day, somebody needs to take decisions in this country.”

‘Malta Public Transport was not up for tallinja card launch’

The Prime Minister admitted that Malta Public Transport was “not up” for the launch of the tallinja bus card on Wednesday and that they had underestimated how many people would apply for it at the last minute.

“For me, it was obvious that so many people were going to apply for a card at the last minute and that the company needed more staff to hand them out,” he said. “At the end of the day, the customer is always right. When I spoke to them about the problem, they weren’t arrogant about it, agreed that they needed more people to process the card applications, and the situation has since improved.”

However, he insisted that the government must now start looking at alternative forms of transport and suggested that a monorail system could eventually be introduced.

“If we decide to go for a monorail, then we must decide whether it should be a ground level monorail or an underground one,” he said, while musing over the possibility of opening underground tunnels for cars, as in cities like Brussels.

He added that the government will soon issue a call for the setting up of a ferry transport system between Valletta and Cottonera as a means of reducing traffic.

He said that plans to connect Malta and Gozo definitely remain on the agenda, and that the government must now assess the cost feasibility and environmental impact of a potential bridge or tunnel between the two islands.

‘EU migrant relocation agreement an insurance policy’

Muscat hailed a recent EU decision to relocate asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, despite the fact that the scheme will see Malta accept 300 asylum seekers over two years.

“Tens of thousands of people are immigrating from Africa to Europe, higher numbers than have ever been recorded in history,” he said in response to a member of the crowd warning that Malta has limited resources to deal with immigration flows. “Hardly any immigrants are reaching Malta’s shores these days as the government has reached a political understanding with Italy. However, the situation could change from day to night and this recent EU agreement will act as an insurance policy in that eventuality.”

“Accepting those asylum seekers will be tangible proof that we stood up to be counted when Italy and Greece needed it most,” he said. “If we are ever faced with a fresh wave of immigrants, we’ll be able to go to Europe and tell them that it is now time for them to help us out as we had helped Italy and Greece.”

While he said he understood the anger of Marsa residents, he warned that racism and xenophobia can never be an acceptable outlet.

He again insisted that he has no information that Malta is at risk of falling victim to a terrorist attack, but admitted that no country in the world is immune to it.

“Terrorism is developing in a way that isn’t easy to prevent,” he said, referring to a recent beheading in France. “However, we shouldn’t get over-alarmed or we’ll simply be playing the terrorists’ game.”      

‘Air Malta must start flying to sub-Saharan countries’

Muscat that Air Malta must start flying to sub-Saharan African countries.  

“The vast majority of Air Malta flights are to the North,” he said, comparing the national airline to a person who only travels to Mellieha and never to Marsaxklokk. “Our strategy for Air Malta is for it to connect Africa with other countries.”

Briefly turning to civil liberties, Muscat reiterated his delight at the passing of the civil unions law last year, joking that he might have to “reserve a room in Hell”.

“I feel so pleased when I switch on Italian TV and hear ongoing debates that are done and dusted in Malta,” he said. 

 ‘I urge Greeks to vote Yes in referendum’

Ahead of a referendum in Greece on Sunday on whether to accept proposed bailout measures or not, Muscat said that the referendum is truly about whether the Greeks want to remain in the Eurozone or not.

While he urged the Greek people to vote for the former option, he insisted that their final decision must be respected, reiterating that Maltese banks aren’t exposed to Greece.