[WATCH] Muscat will make no promises on bird trapping

The Prime Minister said he did not want to give trappers false hope as the government was still analysing the court's decision • Muscat insists that Europe should do more to help asylum seekers while turning away irregular economic migrants

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the government was still analysing the European court's decision and was yet to determine its position
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the government was still analysing the European court's decision and was yet to determine its position

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Sunday that the government had still not decided on a position the decision handed down by the European Courts of Justice (ECJ) on bird trapping in Malta.

On Thursday, the ECJ said that Malta had failed to fulfil the conditions necessary to derogate from the EU’s ban on bird trapping, with the decision effectively spelling out the illegality in the practice, which was reintroduced by Labour in 2014.

The Prime Minister was speaking during an pre-recorded interview on ONE Radio where he said that unlike the Nationalist Party (PN), the Labour Party had always kept its promises to the country’s trappers, adding that the PN had stopped to practice in 2009, despite promises made in the past.

He said that in 2009, there had been a conscious decision by the then-PN government to close the season and not have to deal with doing so on the eve of an election.

On the other hand, he said the Labour Party had always been transparent on the issue.

“We did everything possible for the season to open while we were in government,” Muscat said, adding that it had worked with the hunters’ federation (FKNK) and had been clear about the fact that the decision would likely be challenged by Europe.

He said the decision was a harsh one, but was also one that could not be appealed.

“We can’t break the law,” said Muscat. “We are currently examining the sentence. Once we have done so, we will issue our position.

New impetus for migration solution

Turning to an informal meeting on migration, which is currently underway in Brussels, Muscat noted that he had been part of many similar meetings, which very often ended up not providing the necessary breakthrough.

He noted however that there was currently impetus being driven by “political situations in big countries” that meant something would have to be done.

That being said, Muscat said that there had a been a significant reduction in migrant crossings this year.

Despite the progress, he said Europe was still not doing enough, and that many member states were paying the political price for inaction.

The Prime Minister stressed that the subject needed to be viewed both as a humanitarian and a security one.

“As a country, our policy is to show humanity and respect for people’s dignity, while also being mindful of the fact that we need to control our borders and can’t allow a free-for-all, both in Malta as well as in Europe.”

Malta, he said, had the advantage of not needing to change its position on migration, given that it had been consistent for the last five years.

Muscat stressed that while Europe needed to make it easier for genuine asylum seekers to escape to Europe, those who were simply economic migrants needed to be turned back.

“Do they have the righty to a better life? Yes. But they have to understand that they must go to an embassy and be issued a visa.”

Muscat said that there was also “the issue” of whether someone who enters a country needs to be processed by that country. He said that Malta could understand both those who were in favour of changing this and those who were against it since it had experienced large numbers of migrant arrivals that had to be processed in Malta, and had also experienced migrants travelling to Malta from other European states.

Ultimately, said Muscat, Malta stood for a pragmatic, common sense approach solution to the problem.

Decision to build power station vindicated

Finally, the Prime Minister discussed comments earlier this week by Italian deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who appeared to threated Malta’s supply of electricity from the interconnector with Sicily over what he claimed was Malta’s refusal to help Italy in the case of the MV Aquarius earlier this month.

Muscat played down the incident, saying that Di Maio had met with Education and Employment minister Evarist Bartolo this week for a constructive meeting. “Ultimately you must always meet face to face.”

He noted that cooperation between the two countries was vast and spanned many different sectors, both in public view as well as behind the scenes.

Musact stressed however that while Di Maio made it seem as though Italy was giving Malta electricity, Malta was in fact buying its electricity from the European grid. “Nobody gives it to us as a favour…we pay commercial rates.”

Furthermore, Muscat said that the contract in place clearly specified when it was acceptable for supply to be reduced, the maximum and minimum Malta could buy, as well as other aspects of the cable’s management.

He said that while it was highly unlikely for Italy to decide to break the law and cut off Malta’s supply, the fact that the country had spare capacity meant it could still supply itself with electricity.

More in National