[WATCH] ‘Send Paceville masterplan back to drawing board’ – Louis Grech

‘Practically everyone has opposed the Paceville masterplan, and I believe it should go back to the drawing board’ – deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech 

Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech has called for the Paceville masterplan to be scrapped. Photo: James Bianchi
Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech has called for the Paceville masterplan to be scrapped. Photo: James Bianchi

The Planning Authority’s masterplan for the regeneration of Paceville should be sent back to the drawing board, deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech has said.

Interviewed on TVM’s Xtra, Grech said that “practically everyone” had opposed the masterplan and that he too was personally against it and that it should be redesigned from scratch.

Grech didn’t expand on why he opposed the masterplan, but he has now its first major critic from within the Labour Party. Parliamentary secretary for planning Deborah Schembri has said that the current masterplan was a “no-go” but that she disagreed with the Opposition’s call to take it back to the drawing board since the plan itself was intrinsically “good”.

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The masterplan, which calls for the construction of some 20 high-rise towers in the area, has been harshly criticised for its proposed expropriations of homes and businesses, land reclamation, lack of impact studies, and non-observance of Maltese law.

Grech was quizzed by host Saviour Balzan on the long string of scandals that have inflicted the Labour government. He admitted that scandals such as the Panama Papers had damaged the government, regretting that the scandal had taken the spotlight away from its positive achievements.

He said that no government in Maltese history had been scrutinized as heavily as Labour, and that its bureaucracy was not equipped to handle the modern phenomenon whereby news instantly becomes viral through social media.

“The fact that people expect more from us and are scrutinizing us more is a positive thing, but in today’s society media has become immediate and quickly goes viral. We are a transit government in this regard – we don’t yet have the structures to immediately react and adjust to people’s desires, and I believe future governments will be far more equipped than we are.

Louis Grech was interviewed by Saviour Balzan on Xtra
Louis Grech was interviewed by Saviour Balzan on Xtra

‘Take leadership on Aleppo and foreign affairs’

The interview focused on challenges facing the EU ahead of Malta’s upcoming stint as head of its rotating presidency in January. When asked by Balzan on the EU’s inaction in helping besieged Aleppo citizens, Grech argued that the EU’s weakest point is its lack of structure when it comes to dealing with foreign policy.

Indeed, he urged the EU to seize the moment presented to it by Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as US president to take leadership on foreign policy, including the situation in Aleppo, deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech said.

“No continents give as much aid to countries in need as Europe does, but that aid doesn’t always have much of an impact. Now is the right time for the EU to take leadership on foreign affairs. If Trump decides to ease sanctions on Russia, then the EU will have to decide whether to follow the USA or take a pro-active stance.”

Grech, a former MEP who is now in charge of Malta’s EU affairs, warned that the rise of Eurosceptic parties across the continent was an after-effect of the 2008 financial crisis, which he said “laid bare the defects of globalisation”.  

Indeed, he said that the EU’s greatest challenge during Malta’s upcoming presidency was to prove to its citizens the need for its own continued existence.

“If I were to try convince a group of Maltese Eurosceptics on the benefits of the EU I would argue that European youths tend to have the most belief in the European project despite unemployment being highest in that cohort, I would say that Europe has witnessed 60 years of peace since the EU was formed, and that people’s quality of life has generally improved.”

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