Monday, 31 January 2000

Malta EU Relations 1 - Nationalist Misnomer

The Times of Malta

What`s happening to the Euro-philes` Why is it that as the moment of truth gets nearer and as details about EU membership start being unfolded and understood, they seem to have become overly sensitive to any criticism, to any doubts expressed by anybody who refuses to accept given conclusions`

I bear no grudges against the EU.` I respect the countries that compose it and the others eager to join. The EU has been a most positive factor in post war Europe and certainly brought about peace, stability and prosperity to the European continent and beyond.

This does not however logically lead to closing of the case for Malta`s accession to membership. Much less should it lead to Euro-philes acquiring any right to denigrate whoever expresses any doubt.

Malta must weigh its options for its future relationship with the EU on two main platforms, economic and political.` On the economic front the major difference between the two political forces is broadly, though not exactly, one of time frames. The Government in its drive towards urgent accession to the EU is prepared to restructure our economy on the EU model whatever the cost, whatever the consequences. Given that our economy is operating on a model far from congruent with the EU one, the restructuring pain is bound to be deep and resentful. So resentful that the whole quick EU accession project is flawed.

The excessive speed of re-structuring will stamp the EU in people`s mind as something painful, stringent and tough thus denying support for the project right when most needed, during the referendum.

On the other hand a more sober transition will make the re-structuring pain bearable and will convince the people that re-structuring is necessary for our own sake and not compulsorily linked to the EU accession model. It would permit the electorate to look at the accession to the EU project more objectively.

Clearly there remains the difference between the two political schools as to` whether agricultural and services should be integrated in the free-trade zone. Labour`s official policy is that it will decide the next steps after achieving the free-trade zone in manufactured goods. So presuming that the next steps forward would be towards more integration it would be sensible to assume they would include an` extension of the free trade zone to agriculture and services, to customs union and to free movement of people and capital.` This is after all what the EU-Swiss model is all about, financial sector excluded.

The biggest gap between our political schools on the EU issue is therefore on the political philosophy.` This is not a difference related to time frames.` This is a difference of concepts.

I for one have been arguing forcefully that EU accession would take away one of our natural strengths, that of having a political strategic importance far greater than our size.` Some critics have been amazed that I have had the audacity to ask whether tiny Malta what effectively retain its statehood in the unfolding years following accession to the EU. How dare you, runs the argument, question Malta`s statehood within the EU if Italy, France, UK, Germany and the rest have maintained their own.

The warning attached to advertising of financial products that past performance is no guarantee of the future is very apt even to this political argument. It is not how much sovereignty these countries have maintained so far. It is how much they can maintain in the future.

In private meetings many EU spokesmen give comfortable re-assurances about preservation of our statehood, often adding that Malta`s strategic geo-political importance has diminished.` Official pronouncements do however carry much more wait than small party talk.` Both the first Avis of 1993 and the second Avis of` 1999 make very categorical statements that Malta would be expected to comply with the future pan European defence arrangements.` Specifically the up-dated Avis of Feb 99 states:

`Although government has stated its intention to support the objectives of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the principle of neutrality and non-alignment set-out in the Maltese constitution could lead to difficulties in future CFSP arrangements of the Union`.

I therefore have no compunction in questioning how much sovereignty would EU accession allow us to enjoy. The answers to these can only come after the EU institutional arrangements are re-configured followed the Inter-Governmental Conference about to start. I need answers as to whether we will be allowed to opt-out of the CSFP arrangements, whether we will be given the same veto rights as other members, whether we will have a Commissioner, whether we will take our turn for Presidency of the EU and whether the Maltese language will have any place in the EU bureaucracy Only when the answers to these questions is known can attempts be made to bring about convergence between our two political schools.

For those to whom Malta`s statehood is an expired concept, they do not care about the answer to these questions and are prepared to press on the accelerator regardless. Whilst having a right to their opinion at least they should desist from calling themselves nationalists.

Alfred Mifsud

Sunday, 23 January 2000

Democratic deficit

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Democratic Deficit

How does one measure the state of health of Maltese democracy` Are the liberties guaranteed by our constitution and which by and large are experienced in practice enough to put our mind at rest that we are a truly democratic state`

Is the fact that I can openly criticise the elected representatives, who between one election and another have the faculty to act as temporary dictators,` good and sufficient proof of the state of democracy`

I would say that in Malta we comfortably pass all superficial tests of democracy. But deep down is this so`

This concept hit me when last week a friend of mine asked me whether I could inform him of any vacancy for his communications engineering graduate son who had just returned from a working experience abroad. Being a director on one of Maltacom`s subsidiaries about to launch a mobile telephony service I promised to look into the matter and to inform him about the procedures how to go about applying.

We were not talking about any favours, only` about my supplying information about vacancies and how to apply for them. In any event my position is hardly one which permits the opportunity to dispense favours. So I became slightly nervous when my friend, of well known political leanings diametrically opposed to mine but still a valued friend, asked me whether my interference could jeopardise the chances of his son`s application being considered favourably given that I came from the Labour stables.

What I stressed to myself following this experience is that democracy cannot come only from the letter of the law. People have to make democracy work and that people in these islands have little wish to make democracy work.

If it were otherwise how would the government remain so unaccountable to its electoral promises` Why are political parties allowed to draw up political manifestos without being constrained to draw up a detailed finance plan for the execution of the various promises.` Workers don`t accept the verbal promise of a wage increase from their employer and force the signature of a collective agreement to give legal effect to the enforcement of such promises. How then do they allow political parties to sway their vote without checking their` financing`

What`s` the use of promising you a tax rebate on this or that if I don`t inform that this rebate will be financed by raising direct taxes or by increasing the social security contributions`

At the crux of the democratic inefficiencies which we live in this country is the mismatch between the two political parties that between them govern us as subjects of a supposedly democratic country.

On one hand the Nationalist Party is the political cell of a wide network of power centres which support and re-inforce each other.` So one can see the Nationalist Party being viewed favourably by the other power cells in the network. These include the media, the civil service, the church, the judiciary, the business associations, the intelligentia and wherever else there is any semblance of real power.

These power cells network with each other quite unobtrusively often having the same persons wearing different hats in different positions.` They just are more comfortable with one another than they could ever be with Labour even if they sometimes admit that Labour has more sane policies for the evolution of this country`s well-being.

On the other hand the Labour Party is a stand-alone which traditionally had an ally in the General Workers Union its twin organisation in the industrial relations field.` For reasons which give merits to the right wing`s ability to condition the left wing to take a worse perception of itself than would reality would sustain, the GWU market share in the industrial relations was dented with the creation of various union organisations which are loosely or strongly networked with the system of power basis of the Nationalist Party. Much worse the co-operation between the MLP and the GWU has swung the whole pendulum from the extremes of the statutory fusion to the extremes of L-Orizzont of Saturday 22nd January 2000 reporting an important speech by the leader of the Opposition on page 12!

The reality of this situation as confirmed by the experience of 1996 `1998 Labour administration is that the Nationalist party has absolute power when in Government and considerable power through its network when in Opposition. On the contrary Labour have considerable power when in Government and absolutely no power when in Opposition.

If this is democracy than give me dictatorship at any time. At least I would not be living a lie!

Sherlock Holmes


Sherlock Holmes

Hafna minnkom qraw l-istejjer tad-detektiv ingliz, il-leggendarju Sherlock Holmes. Dan id-ditektiv kellu principju wiehed li dejjem kien izommu f`mohhu kull meta jkun qed jahdem biex isolvi xi delitt mizterjuz. Holmes kien dejjem jahdem bit-tezi li l-awtur tal-qtil aktarx kien dak li l-aktar gawda mill-mewt tal-vittma. U aktar ma dan is-suspettat ikollu alibi qawwija biex jippotegi lilu nniffsu allura aktar hemm kaz li wiehed jaghrbel sewwa l-fatti bir-reqqa biex tara x`kien il-bzonn li dan li tant gawda mill-qtil tal-vittma jibni ghalih alibi daqstant qawwija biex jeghleb kull suspett.

Wara l-guri tas-surgent J.J. Grech li kien akkuzat bi vjolenza waqt il-festa nazzjonalista fir Rabat nhar il-5 ta` April 1987 jidher li ghandna bzonn Sherlock Holmes biex nibdew insolvu l-misteri tal-vjolenza politika li tkattret hekk kif Dr Eddie Fenech Adami lahaq Kap tal-PN. F`wahda mill-ewwel dikjarazzjonijiet tieghu kien qal li l-PN ghandu bzonn ukoll lil dawk ta` idejhom felhana biex jekk ikun hemm bzonn jipproteguhom.

L-ezitu tal-guri ta` Grech issa huwa maghruf. Issa ghandna l-kelma tal-qorti li emmnet li l-pulizija, ippersonifikata mis-surgent Grech, ma marrux `l hemm mill-limiti ta` forza li hemm bzonn biex tinzamm il-bon ordni. Izda aktar minn hekk harget evidenza qawwija li l-vjolenza kienet ippjanata minn naha tan-Nazzjonalisti bi tkomplija ma dak li kien beda fil-ghodu f`Haz-Zebbug.

Hareg car il-pjan li jinholoq konfront mal-pulizija u li jigu sparati tiri biex iwegghu in-nies u jehlu il-pulizija.

U bhal Sherlock Holmes ghandna nistaqsu minn gawda minn dawn l-incidenti. Gawda l-Partit Nazzjonalista li propju xahar qabel l-elezzjoni ta meju 1987 ried jittimbra akkost ta` kollox f`mohh il-poplu li l-Gvern ta` Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici kien gvern anti-demokratiku li juza l-vjolenza tal-pulizja fuq l-avversarji poltici tieghu. Kien hemm min ried jaghmilha tal-vittma halli jmexxi l-pjan politiku tieghu, iweggha min iweggha.

Quddiem fatti bhal dawn huwa naturali li jqumu mistoqsijiet li jehtiegu risposta. Mistoqsijiet dwar il-mewt ta` Mario Pavia li bi provi kien wasal biex jghid lil Kap ta` l-Oppozizzjoni li hu mhux veru kien gharaf il-pulizija li suppost kien sparalu fir-Rabat. Dwar il-mewt ta Wilfred Cardona li nstab mejjet f`Ta Qali. Il-mewt ta` Nardu debono fid-Depot. Min kellu interess li Nardu jaghlaq halqu darba ghal dejjem` Ma jidhirx li dan kien fl-interess ta` Pullicino li wehel bl-ispejjez ta` kulhadd meta Pullicino kien l-aktar wiehed li kellu nteress li Nardu jikxef il-mandant ta` l-att vili li kien ghamel.

U fuq kollox iqumu mistoqsijiet qawwija fuq il-qtil ta` Raymond Caruana. Min gawda mil-qtil ta` Raymond Caruana` Kieku l-Laburisti riedu jbezzghu lin-Nazzjonalisti kieku kienu ser jahbtu ghal kazin nazzjonalista tal-Gudja propju il-gimgha 5 ta` Dicembru 1986 propju meta Malta kien hawn il-gurnalisti sportivi taljani kollha li gew biex jaraw il-partita Malta ` Italja li kellha ssir l-ghada. Jew xenarju bhal dan kien idejali biex jikkonvinci lil shab in-Nazzjonalisti barra minn Malta li f`Malta kien hawn veru oppressjoni politika`

Ghandha bzonn Sherlock Holmes Malti biex issa li z-zejt beda tiela` f`wicc l-ilma jibda jfarfar it-trab minn fuq il-verita` li ilha mohbija s-snin.` Jibda jifhem il-konnessjoni ta` ghotjiet ta` mahfriet presidenzjali lil kriminali u traffikanti tad-droga li kienu laqghu l-appell ta` Fenech Adami biex jipproteguh permezz tal-forza fizika.

Ovvjament wiehed ma jridx jezonara in-naha laburista mill-eccessi, bhal meta nharqet it-Times u giet attakkata d-dar privata ta` Fenech Adami. Dawn huma atti kundannabbli minn kull lat. Izda tal-kwart ma ghandux jithallas ratal u hadd ma ghandu jiehu l-opportunita` biex jitfa` l-gebla u jahbi idu halli jzid il-kolpa ta` haddiehor.

Dan l-ahhar kien hawn min beda jinkwieta li Dr lawrence Pullicinoo din is-sena jkun skonta is-sentenza ta` habs u jirritorna bniedem liberu. Lanqas meta nheles it-terrorista tal-Egypt Air li gibed l-ghadab ta` l-Amerika u li xellef ir-relazzjoni ta` Malta ma l-Amerika ma sar l-istess staghgib. Forsi hawn min jibza li jasal Sherlock Holmes`