In a speech to the Maltese Parliament, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy yesterday assured the House of Representatives that “Malta’s voice is being heard.” He insisted that the migration problem has to be dealt with in a “humane and effective way.”
The EC President reminded the House that Malta has received 80 million in support during the EU’s 2007-2013 budget period, promising stronger support in the next budget. Mr Van Rompuy however conceded that “money alone is not enough.” He said that progress only comes by working on many fronts, including dialogue with the countries of origin.
The President of the European Council highlighted that Malta is a “caring nation,” particularly in light of the “crucial role” played by Malta in supporting the Libyan cause during the Arab Spring. “It was a moment that illustrated that in our Union, every country, no matter its size, can play a key part and punch above its weight,” he said.
Mr Van Rompuy reminded that Malta forms part of a “wider community,” which brings about responsibilities. He took the opportunity to fire of a list of benefits that Malta has received since joining the EU, saying that many results are visible to the people.
On the financial and economic crises, Mr Van Rompuy drove home the need for a single supervisory mechanism for banks as well as a single resolution mechanism, calling them key to proper economic and monetary union, which he said will ultimately make economies more resilient.
Mr Van Rompuy recognised Malta’s geographic constraints when it comes to energy, which for the most part has to be imported. He acknowledged the government’s efforts in striving to bring down energy tariffs.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took a conciliatory approach with the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in parliament today, lauding him for being “a person who is ready to listen.”
In his speech in reply Dr Muscat noted the reception to Mr Van Rompuy’s speech, which received applause from both sides of the House, saying, “Mr President, you have united us.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged the “human tragedy,” but he also said that the Maltese population feels “abandoned” by the lack of solidarity shown by Europe. He contrasted the support offered by Malta during the bailout with the feeling of abandonment currently being felt. “This is why the population feels abandoned. This is the moment when we need help. We are saying that we cannot cope on our own,” Dr Muscat pleaded.
The Prime Minister assured Mr Van Rompuy that he is going to be proactive and not just air his gripes about the situation. Particular focus is going to be placed on Libya, whose Deputy Prime Minister has already “shown willingness to open the door on discussions.”
“You will find in us reasonable partners that will raise their voices when necessary. You will find in us partners who will sit around the table without any sense of inferiority. As Mediterraneans we will be active, not passive, in ensuing that Europe does not ignore North Africa,” Dr Muscat said to Mr Van Rompuy.
‘Voice of reason stronger than the veto’ – Simon Busuttil
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil insisted that Malta is better off working with the EU, rather than against it.
“The voice of reason is stronger than the veto,” Dr Busuttil insisted.
“We respect fundamental human rights. We did not agree with the government’s decisions to send these people back and violate their fundamental human rights. It doesn’t matter if someone arrived here with a dingy or a cruise liner, human rights but be respected and applied equally,” Dr Busuttil said.
The Opposition leader also took the opportunity to call on more support from the EU, saying that the responsibility must be borne by all.[Source: www.independent.com.mt]
For more photos of Mr Rompuy’s visit to Malta, click here.
Full text of Mr Van Rompuy’s speech
It is a pleasure to be in Malta once again, and a privilege to address this House today. I would like to thank you for this invitation, and for the warm welcome I receive each time I visit your country. This is the fourth time I come on official duty, and my fifth visit to date: I also came as a private visitor in 2006. All my family keep very pleasant memories of this stay.
The beautiful setting of this House, at the heart of Valletta, is testimony to Malta’s long, rich, tumultuous history. With such strategic geography, at the crossroads of so many influences, it could hardly have been otherwise. And this gives Malta a special place in European history. More than once − think of the Great Siege of Malta or the Second World War, which brought you the George Cross − in defending their shores, the people of Malta and Gozo helped protect Europe too.
Your islands were once the home of the Hospitallers: a beacon of hospitality. I have just met with your Prime-Minister. Where else but in Malta could the Head of Government’s office be housed in an Auberge? A hospitable symbol like no other… Bringing together knights from many countries, with different languages, different cultures, but working together as one, the Auberges of the Order of Saint John, in a way, remind me a little of Brussels today: a “small Europe”, with permanent representations for each of its member states!
Across the centuries, from welcoming pilgrims along their travels in the Mediterranean, all the way to nursing soldiers to recovery during World War I, Malta earned a reputation not just as a beautiful island but also as a caring nation.
And again, at a moment of need, when two years ago thousand of foreign workers had to be brought back to safety from Libya, your country played a crucial role. It was an important moment, a moment of pride. For Malta of course, but also for the whole of Europe as well. It was a moment that illustrated something in which I strongly believe: that in our Union, every country, no matter its size, can play a key part, and punch above its weight.
Every new country that joins – and we had this joy again last week with Croatia – every new country brings its own special features, giving the Union more richness, more depth. And in becoming part of the family, each country changes too.
For a country like Malta, it means belonging to a wider community far beyond your shores. Being able to help shape the present and the future of a Union of 500 million citizens. And seeing your voice amplified in the region and the world. Coming from Belgium, another small member state, I know what it means!
With membership comes responsibility: to take into account the views and situation of others, the common good and interest of the whole. With it also comes a host of opportunities. And Malta’s example, nearly ten years after joining the club, is telling.
Today, when asked in surveys, the Maltese are amongst the most Europe-aware and the most supportive of the Union. And your participation in European elections is unrivalled… And that has mainly to do with the way
the people of Malta have seized the opportunities this new European horizon offered. Families travelling abroad, students studying in universities across the continent, businesses attracting investments, from inside but also outside Europe, farmers and businesses accessing funds, new projects getting support, and start-ups becoming bigger by the day…The success stories are many.
And from new roads to some Europe’s cleanest seas thanks to the new water treatment plant, to new infrastructure and new opportunities for students and staff at the university and the vocational college, and many other projects…: the results are there, and they are visible to the people.
That is also thanks to your own efforts, as politicians, to showcase these results – the many concrete projects that Europe supports in Malta, the benefits your country draws from its EU membership.
This “Europe of results” matters. It matters deeply. Especially in times of economic difficulty. Your country has been shielded from the very worst of the financial and economic crisis, but of course what affects the other members of the Union affects you as well, not least through trade and tourism.
In those difficult years, you have stood by the other members of the eurozone, your currency companions. Together, we managed to defeat the existential threats to the eurozone; it is no small achievement. Of course, sharing a currency means much more than sharing banknotes and coins. All euro countries share jointly the responsibility for the euro area as a whole. Our economies are interlinked in such a way that what happens in one particular country can matter for all other countries as well. We all rely on each other.
So the countries using the euro have all come to recognise that they need to coordinate their policies even more closely – on financial affairs, on budget matters, on economic policy. It’s the only way for the Economic and Monetary Union to work properly, to become (to quote the title of my reports from last year) a “genuine Economic and Monetary Union”.
This is particularly true when it comes to banks, and that is why completing the banking union remains a key priority. Next year the Single Supervisory Mechanism will start its operations for all euro area banks. This Single Supervisory must be completed through the establishment of a Single Resolution Mechanism. This reinforced financial architecture, which is a key step towards a genuine monetary union, will make our economies more
resilient, and support growth and job creation on a lasting basis. And I know that Malta, with its important banking sector, is participating very actively in these discussions. For all the countries of our Union, financial stability in the eurozone is a necessary condition for jobs and growth, but not a sufficient one. Bringing back growth across the continent, stimulating employment, making Europe fit for the future: these are today our highest common priorities.
We have to tackle root-causes that often run deep, long-neglected structural challenges that have resurfaced with the crisis. New competitors, an aging population, de-industrialisation, energy dependence, technological revolutions… Those challenges affect every single one of our countries, to different degrees but with no exception. And euro or no euro, Union or no Union, they need to be addressed: we simply can’t afford to let our competitiveness slip in this fast changing world. As a Union, competitiveness is not just about strengthening the core, but really about strengthening the whole: also the strengths of those who, at the periphery, sometimes face specific challenges.
Certainly, actions, for the most part, lie in the hands of member states – whether short-term measures to fight the most pressing problems, or structural reforms, to strengthen the economy on the long-term.
Still, together as a Union, we are also mobilising all our policies towards these goals, helping countries fight back against the crisis. Supporting for instance youth employment and investments for SMEs, as we did at the last European Council at the end of June.
As a Union, competitiveness is not just about strengthening the core, but about strengthening the whole: also supporting the strengths of those at the periphery, which have specific challenges. Continuing to innovate, remaining attractive to investors, developing new skills, new areas of expertise: this is what in the end will make the difference. Each country needs to think ahead, making sure all its assets are put to best use.
In a country like Malta, with scarce natural resources but a highly qualified population, this also means making the most of your human resources, and increasing overall work participation, for the benefit of all.
Speaking of resources, this is of course one of the areas where your geographical situation makes things more challenging. Europe as a whole depends increasingly on imported energy, and energy prices are on the rise in most member states; but hardly anywhere more so than in Malta. I know your government has set this problem as a top priority, and rightly so.
As all countries in a similar position know well, lasting progress on this issue cannot happen overnight although time is pressing. Progress can only come by working on many fronts, and also on the longer-term, in dialogue, also with the countries of origin. On this matter, the Prime Minister and I met earlier today with the Libyan Vice-Premier. In the end, we have to deal with this problem in a humane and at the same time effective way. I know that on this the people of your country, their representatives in this House and the government all agree. And I assure you, once again, that Malta’s voice is being heard.
The wake of the so called “Arab Spring” has led these last years to a relative surge of arrivals, in Malta and in some other European member states – and of course, to huge numbers of refugees throughout the region, with a small countries like Jordan or Lebanon both hosting close to half a million Syrian refugees.
In many ways it is still too early to look back upon shifts of such magnitude, as the recent events in Egypt, more than two years after the initial democratic upheavals, or the continued violence in Syria make clear. Of course with such close geography and these societies so very intertwined with ours, it was always clear that, as neighbours, as partners, these changes – the risks and opportunities that lay ahead – would also affect us in Europe.
As Europeans, we are well placed to know that political change doesn’t happen painlessly or overnight. We know about long transitions, and that progress only comes with countless steps. So as each country in the Maghreb and the Middle-East region charts its own course, as each population strives to realise its aspirations, the European Union is committed to staying by their side every step along the way.
With such deep ties to the region, and such interest in its stability and prosperity, within our Union Malta has always been a voice for the Mediterranean, and we know that you will remain an active partner in the region.
In December last year, I had the pleasure of travelling to Oslo accompanied by a remarkable young man from Malta, who thanks to supporters from your country and many others, had won the honour of representing Eu
rope’s young generation at the award ceremony for the Nobel prize for peace.
Describing what Europe at peace meant to him, Larkin Zahra described, in the space of a few words – nearly a haiku! – what the Union – Europe at peace – means to so many people: “My grandparents would have said ‘a dream’, my parents would have said ‘a process’, I say it’s my everyday reality!”
The every day reality that is our Europe used to be a dream. Today it is us all – we are all Europe, L-Ewropa hija ahna. And even in challenging times, we must, through results, keep proving, to ourselves, to all generations, that Europe is part of the solution – for our countries in the world, and for the benefit of our people. Grazzi hafna. Thank you