[WATCH] Dalli gives short shrift to MEPs who chastise Malta in Brussels

PN MEP Roberta Metsola and Labour MEP Miriam Dalli sparred on current affairs programme Xtra, discussing political lies, motherhood and the issue of abortion

The Maltese people, and not foreign MEPs, should judge the rule of law in Malta, according to Labour MEP Miriam Dalli.

Dalli and PN MEP Roberta Metsola were both guests on current affairs programme XTRA, and while the two found common ground on a number of issues, the rule of law in Malta was not one of them.

Referring to a draft resolution —outlining serious concerns over the rule of law in Malta—which was adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) of the European Parliament, Dalli said that foreign MEPs did not go as far in their criticism of their country.  

“Are we to believe that all politicians in foreign countries are honest? We hear about Deutsche Bank, Danske Bank, Estonia, the Netherlands, but we don’t see the politicians in these countries doing the same thing the PN MEPs do with regards to Malta,” Dalli said.

Metsola retorted by saying that the government was trying to silence her and the other PN MEPs.

“We’re not saying PN MEPs should stop talking and I have all respect for groups analysing Malta but this should be done objectively,” Dalli replied.

Metsola invoked the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia as well as the Panama Papers scandal and reports emerging from it, implying that she was morally obliged to put Malta in the spotlight, especially since, she argued, the response from the government on these subjects was not convincing and left much to be desired.  

“Secondly, the government is not Malta and Malta is not the government, so we’re not criticising Malta," Metsola said.

It's here that Metsola said that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi should stop lying and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat should likewise stop lying on his behalf.

“Really, you have the nerve to talk about insincerity?” Dalli replied. “The Nationalist Party rode on a lie based on falsified documentation as its electoral campaign. Imagine if the Prime Minister was removed on a lie, imagine the instability.”

Through their resolution, which will be be put to the vote in the plenary session at the end of March, MEPs are calling on Malta to set up an independent inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder and for the country to stop the sale of citizenship to wealthy investors.

On the Individual Investor Programme (IIP), Dalli said that if MEPs were going to attack Malta, they should likewise attack the 13 other countries with similar schemes.

“Malta’s programme has four layers of due diligence. The PN is inconsistent on this issue—firstly, some PN MPs make a lot of money from the scheme and, secondly, at one point they said the scheme should be abolished and later said it should be tweaked.”

She added that anything that had led to more investment in Malta had been attacked by the PN in one way or another.

Dalli went on to say that the PN MEPs’ intention was to trigger Article 7 with regards to Malta.

Article 7 is a mechanism of the Lisbon Treaty that ensures that "all EU countries respect the common values of the EU." It was envisaged as a way to mitigate and prevent member states from backsliding on European values and the rule law, with a nod to the bloc's youngest democracies.

This provoked Metsola into saying that this was a shamefaced lie and that she became a politician because of values she embraced.

Nation shouldn’t wait for MEPs to have a debate  

Both MEPs had strong views on abortion—mainly that they both disagreed with it’s legalisation.

“I don’t think we should discuss abortion in the context of Parliamentary elections,” Metsola said. “The left has a tendency to bring up the topic in the European Parliament in the context of LGBTIQ+ rights, which are not on the same spectrum. I do not agree with abortion.”

Dalli said that she didn’t believe in abortion either, pointing out that abortion had never featured in Labour’s electoral programme.

On AD MEP candidate Mina Tolu’s call for a civilised debate on the topic, a move that prompted long-standing AD politician Arnold Cassola to resign, Dalli argued that it was ridiculous that in Malta we expected politicians to stimulate discussion.

“If in this country we still believe that it’s politicians who should condition what we talk about, then we haven’t learnt anything. We shouldn’t wait for politicians to tell us what we need to discuss,” she said.

Juggling motherhood and being an MEP

Metsola said that the last five years as a PN MEP were very intensive, especially as a coordinator in LIBE, working on issues like terrorism, security, immigration and rule of law.

Dalli is also a member of this committee.

Metsola said this mean that both women needed to leave their children behind and travel to Brussels every three days.

“People might think upon that life—which includes a lot of travelling—as an agreeable one, and yes we can w-ork full-time and have a lot of support but we work hard, and how much you work depends on you. There are some MEPs who turn up to parliament to just vote,” she said.

She argued that the biggest challenge as an MEP was communicating what Maltese MEPs were working on in parliament to a Maltese audience and how certain topics aren’t caught by the Maltese media.

“That fact that I have two young kids, aged two and five, who I have to leave behind to fly to Brussels every few days is heartbreaking, but being an MEP has its advantages. I get to shape EU law,” Dalli said.