Prime Minister: Malta wants best relations with Italy, saving of lives remains priority

Joseph Muscat says Malta’s interests come first and foremost, but he wouldn't let racism, xenophobia be promoted

The government wants Malta to have the best possible relations with Italy, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today, emphasising that Maltese and Italian interests on migration are identical and that the saving of lives remains a priority “over everything else”.

Speaking on One Radio this morning, Muscat said in no uncertain terms that Malta has, and will continue, to observe all international rules on migration.

“We did so this week, and will continue to do so,” he said, “And we substantiate this with documented facts. It is important that everyone adheres to the rules - this means us, others governments and other organisations.”

He highlighted that Italy’s current government was its fourth since he became Prime Minister, and that there was no reason Malta should not continue to have good relations with the country.

“I am not going to give any rash statements - wherever there are any misunderstandings [with Italy], we need to clarify them,” Muscat said, “We need to have good relations with all our neighbours, both European and African.”

His statements come in the midst of reports that Italian Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini accused private migrant rescue groups of acting as water taxis for migrants in the Mediterranean, and also warned that Malta couldn't continue to say no to rescuing its share of migrants.

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Trouble brewing as Italy warns Malta on migrant rescues

Muscat said that the “racist reaction” from certain quarters in Malta to such reports had irked him. “I will not let anyone use such issues to promote racism and xenophobia,” he underscored.

“I will see that Malta’s interest comes first and foremost - including on migration - but I will not let this government’s strong standing on the matter lead to the promotion of racist elements.”

“You can make solid arguments and love your country without giving rise to hateful sentiments,” he added.

Government listened to arguments on IVF

The amendments the government had made to its IVF law proposals - namely the decision to discuss surrogacy as a separate law - show that it has listened to the various arguments put forth on the matter, Muscat said.

“We did all this while staying true to our principles regarding the expansion of IVF, including through the use of embryo freezing, which is an important point that we will continue to insist on,” he underlined, as he remarked he couldn’t understand the Opposition’s argument when it accused the government of only undertaking changes because its proposals had been done in haste.

Muscat also made brief reference to Lufthansa Technik, which is marking its 15th anniversary in Malta. “This was an operation started under Nationalist administrations, and which this government continued to expand.”

“It shows that the Maltese economy isn’t only reliant on one sector - it is diversified,” he said.

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