Muscat looks to the future: land reclamation and Gozo as 2030 capital of culture

Muscat says Opposition must approve constitutional amendments proposed by Venice Commission report out tomorrow Monday

Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has signalled his intention to steam ahead with artificial islands and land reclamation to make use of the rock that will be cut out of the earth for the Malta-Gozo tunnel. 

Muscat told supporters today that the construction waste generated from the rock-cutting from the tunnel could be used for “creative purposes” for land reclamation off the Maltese island. 

“I see this discussion as a country getting ready for the future. We have moved from one administration speaking only of present-day needs, to one that looks to the future,” Muscat said, in a speech dedicated to his government’s infrastructural projects. 

Muscat said the Gozo tunnel would generate three years’ worth of construction waste that should not just be dumped out at sea. “This is a resource, and we should make use of it,” Muscat said. 

The Environment and Resources Authority has told Cabinet that a site between Xghajra and Marsaskala is the most ideal for the creation of land reclamation projects. 

Muscat spoke after Labour MEP Miriam Dalli and justice and culture minister Owen Bonnici, saluting him for the stewardship of the European Capital of Culture which comes to an end at the close of 2018. 

“I think there are great synergies at work... and we should even start considering work for the next ECOC in 15 years’ time,” Muscat said, to a mirthful murmur from his audience. “I think we should actually see Gozo being the ECOC, to put the island on top of the agenda with cultural investment... I think we would be giving a vision of how to plan for things ahead, to turn Gozo into a cultural magnet, so that it will not be simply ‘the land to relax in’ but a place for artists to come to.” 

The prime minister spared a few minutes to remind his faithful listeners of the need to separate their domestic waste, weeks since the government introduced mandatory separation of organic waste. “In six weeks of this system, we have collected as much organic waste as what was collected in 2017 alone. “We are the EU country that uses landfills the most to dispose of our waste... at this rate we will need another landfill if we do not separate our waste,” Muscat said, speaking of the need to convert waste into energy and a new plastic bottle collection system. 

He pre-empted a Council of Europe report out tomorrow Monday on the Maltese institutions as an opportunity for his government and the Opposition to approve constitutional amendments that would improve the institutions and introduce checks and balances on the executive’s power. 

“If anything there is an analysis that says the changes we ushered in have been positive... but also that the Office of the Prime Minister has too much powers. And let me say that, surely this is not something I invented. Previous prime ministers have had the right to simply select any lawyer walking down the street and appoint him a magistrate... we introduced a judicial selection committee that has to vet candidates who wish to be magistrates.” 

Muscat said his government was ready to take on the recommendations of the Venice Commission, but that many constitutional changes will require the votes of the Opposition. 

“I believe the steering committee for constitutional reform can give the necessary impetus to bring about these constitutional changes,” Muscat said. 

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