Support for Croatia’s accession

Malta is very supportive of the membership of Croatia to the EU and has consistently advocated that Croatia should be admitted in the shortest time frame possible. Malta also maintains an open mind about enlargement to other potential candidates insisting of course that all applicants must meet the Copenhagen criteria prior to membership. A large proportion of the public at large remains sceptical of Turkey’s EU membership bid believing that this would dilute the process of EU integration and change the nature of EU cooperation in future.
The status of Kosovo
Malta believes that Kosovo has the right to decide upon its own future, including independence, but that any decisions taken must be implemented in a peaceful way. All measures necessary must be taken to avoid the re-emergence of instability in the Balkans again.

Ratification process should proceed

The outcome of the Irish referendum has been described as very disappointing by the Maltese Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as by the new 34 year old leader of the opposition Joseph Muscat (MEP, socialist group). Most pundits in Malta in the political sector and academic area are echoing José Manuel Barroso that the ratification process should proceed, and Ireland should eventually decide upon its future in the EU. Thus while the outcome of the referendum is regarded as a setback the majority believe that the ratification process should proceed nevertheless. Also of direct concern to Malta is the fact that without the Lisbon Treaty, Malta will not gain its 6th MEP like other small member states in the EU.
The government has repeated that while it will respect the Irish outcome, the process of ratification should proceed and then a decision be made on how to continue to proceed. Some pro-EU integration analysts have argued that perhaps the time has come for a two speed Europe to emerge – then once everyone, or at least the majority have ratified the treaty, the Irish can be given another chance to decide on their future.

No obstacles envisaged to ratification

The timetable for ratification is regarded as realistic – both the government and opposition in the Parliament of Malta already voted in favour of the previous reform (constitutional) treaty in 2006.
The citizens of Malta and Gozo are very well informed of the basic parameters of the reform treaty. This is the result of the previous public relations campaign run by the government and the EU Commission representative in Malta.
The main debate concerning the European Union in Malta towards the end of 2007 has been on the introduction of the EURO on January 1st 2008. While most sectors favour the introduction of the single currency, fears of a rise inflation have also been widespread. The main reference to the reform treaty by the media and by both main political parties, the Nationalist Party in government and the Labour Party in opposition, has been the positive development of Malta gaining a sixth seat in the European Parliament.
There are no obstacles envisaged to ratification of the reform treaty with a consensus existing at a political level and no debate whatsoever of the possibility of a EU referendum. With a general election due to take place in the first half of 2008, probably in the first quarter of 2008, local issues have been dominating most of the political debate in Malta.

Illegal immigration and spring hunting

Stephen Calleya
The issue of illegal immigration remains a priority issue with the government of Malta now officially deciding to withdraw from participating in Frontex Operations in the Mediterranean. The government officially declared that this decision was taken due to the decreasing number of illegal migrants arriving in the course of last year. But this decision coincides with the EU’s announcement that all migrants rescued by Frontex operations will now be taken to the country conducting the rescue operation prompting everyone to believe that Malta’s decision to withdraw was taken due to this new provision.
Another major issue dominating politics in Malta in recent months is the issue of spring hunting. The government of Malta decided to open this year’s spring hunting for one week, much to the dismay of activists in favour of birds. The government has announced that it will be discussing this issue extensively with the EU in the coming months before deciding whether to open the season for a lengthier period next year, as the hunter’s association have been consistently requesting.

Climate and energy policy: more credible targets needed

Stephen Calleya
The Copenhagen conference in December 2009 has been regarded as a failure due to the fact that it did not succeed in producing a binding agreement. The conference also provided unique insight into the limits of the European Union’s influence in this sector as a result of American and Chinese dominance during the negotiating stages of the conference.
It appears that the EU needs to adopt a higher profile and more credible targets when it comes to its energy and climate policy if it wants to become more influential on the international stage. The Copenhagen conference clearly highlighted the weak position that the EU possesses in the climate change debate. If the EU is to regain the initiative, it must adopt more coherent and consistent policies in both areas.
A global agreement within the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the most effective policy framework to pursue, as it would ensure the most comprehensive approach possible to addressing such a global phenomenon.
Malta fully supports financing such efforts in developing countries, as long as such measures are seriously monitored.

Rigorous monitoring mechanisms necessary

Stephen Calleya
There is a general consensus that the action taken to address the deteriorating economic situation in Greece was necessary to shore up the single currency. There is, however, also a clear understanding at a political and civil societal level that economic assistance must be coupled with rigorous monitoring mechanisms to ensure that reforms and restructuring are actually implemented.
It is clear that a more accountable and transparent system of economic surveillance at a European level is required to safeguard against future Greek style economic collapses. It is not enough to have clearly defined economic criteria to manage the economies of Eurozone member states. Enforcement of the criteria must also occur if mismanagement of certain economies is to be avoided. At a governmental level, there is also support for a contingency fund to further strengthen the position of the Euro.
There is a positive attitude towards having strong coordination of economic policies in Europe. The principle of solidarity is often referred to when it comes to supporting those states that are under economic pressure, especially those states that are part of the Euro group. One area where there is reluctance to introduce closer economic cooperation is taxation.

Croatia’s membership promoted

Stephen Calleya
The government of Malta has been a consistent proponent of Croatia’s membership application. The foreign ministries of both Croatia and Malta have interacted regularly in an effort to promote Croatia’s membership bid. Thus, Malta believes Croatia will become a member of the EU in the next round of enlargement. Such a development will have a positive impact on strengthening stability across the Balkans and further enhance the Mediterranean dimension of the European Union.
Malta is also supportive of the EU applications of Montenegro and Iceland.[1] Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been in close contact with both countries and offered support to further their EU accession negotiations.
Discussion regarding EU membership applications is primarily carried out at a governmental level with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly commenting on this issue. There is a consensus across the political spectrum in Malta that only those states that fully meet the Copenhagen Criteria should be allowed to join the European Union. No consideration should be given entertaining transitional phases of enlargement when it comes to countries that have yet to carry out the necessary political and economic reforms.

New posts for more coherence

Stephen Calleya
The new President of the European Council is regarded as the individual who is supposed to bring further coherence to EU policy-making. As former Belgian Prime Minister, he is highly respected and was well received during his brief visit to Malta earlier this year. There is an assumption that his role will supersede the role previously held by the member state of the rotating presidency, but there is a great deal of ambiguity among public opinion about the exact extent to which the rotating presidency modality will be made redundant. The fact that the Spanish EU Presidency has adopted a more or less “business as usual” attitude when it comes to their presidency has not helped to clarify the precise role that the new President of the European Council is expected to play.
The new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is regarded as an important new actor that should provide a more coherent foreign policy perspective to the EU decision-making process. Criticism of Catherine Ashton in the international media has not been mirrored in the Maltese press. Most of the attention has focused on the policy platform that she is seeking to introduce in line with the Lisbon Treaty agenda with a particular focus on reform of the EU’s diplomatic service.

Managing the challenge of illegal migration in Malta

Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta
Over recent years, Malta has increasingly moved into the international spotlight as a frontline state for irregular migration from the African continent towards the EU. Since 2002, Malta has experienced a growing influx of migrants predominately from the horn of Africa, practically all of which have departed from the Libyan coast towards Europe. Even though, in absolute terms, the number of seaborne migrants landing on Malta has been rather modest, given the country’s small size and very high population density, the impact in proportional terms has been higher than in most if not all European countries.
Consequently, illegal immigration has become one of Malta’s top policy priorities, nationally as well as at the EU level, where Malta has been calling for burden-sharing mechanisms and support from other EU countries in coping with the growth in irregular immigration. Moreover, boat migration across the Mediterranean has also become an increasingly pressing humanitarian challenge: it is estimated that, over recent years, several hundred would-be immigrants have died every year in the Mediterranean trying to reach the EU from the south.