Opposition leader Adrian Delia agrees with Prime Minister’s caution on new EU defence body

Malta has not joined a new EU body fostering increased defence cooperation after government cites neutrality clause • Adrian Delia agrees with government’s caution, disagrees with his predecessor Simon Busuttil

A new defence cooperation initiative was set up between 25 EU countries with Malta opting out because of its constitutional neutrality
A new defence cooperation initiative was set up between 25 EU countries with Malta opting out because of its constitutional neutrality

Opposition leader Adrian Delia has put more distance between him and his predecessor Simon Busuttil, this time on Malta’s decision to opt out of a new EU defence body.

On Monday morning in Parliament, Delia agreed with the cautious approach adopted by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat not to join the defence programme because of Malta’s neutrality.

Malta is one of three countries that have not joined the new defence initiative known as the Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco), which was formally set up during last week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Joseph Muscat said in a ministerial statement in Parliament this morning the defence programme was intended to increase cooperation and investment in defence and ensure the operational readiness of the armed forces.

Neutral countries like Ireland have joined but the Prime Minister said the government preferred to wait and see how the programme will develop.

“The programme is still in its infancy and the government still has to see whether it would develop into a simple programme to better organise systems, or whether it would develop into a more militarised system to deal with situations,” Muscat told Parliament.

Until now, Pesco is there to coordinate military sales and products, he said.

Muscat added that the government still had to see whether it agrees with Pesco’s aims and ideals, or whether these would conflict with the Constitution.

Replying to the statement, Delia agreed with the Prime Minister’s cautious approach to the matter.

Delia said in light of Malta’s neutrality, the government should first understand the context and the responsibilities the programme entailed before joining Pesco.

Simon Busuttil tweeted his views in favour of the defence programme
Simon Busuttil tweeted his views in favour of the defence programme

The PN leader’s position contrasts with that of his predecessor Simon Busuttil, who had tweeted his view that Malta should join the EU’s new defence initiative.

“Why should we let an obsolete constitutional neutrality clause stop us from joining this EU-wide security cooperation from which we only stand to gain?” Busuttil tweeted last week as he shared a Times of Malta article that announced Malta was one of three countries to opt out of the programme.

More in National

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe