Friday, 22 September 2000

IVA What

The Malta Independent

IVA What`

The government is launching a new wave of publicity to promote its yes campaign in favour of Malta`s membership bid in the EU. Malta is to have it`s IVA movement to balance out the CNI movement against membership beyond the political fora of the debate.

Really the CNI no campaign is already more than balanced by the European Movement and the Malta-EU Information Centre (MIC) who show no shame whatsoever in going beyond their terms of reference to inform and instead form part of the political yes campaign.

This notwithstanding,` qualitative and quantitative returns from the electorate show, with a very small margin for possible error, that the yes position has been losing supporters at a fast pace whilst the no position is holding its own. The biggest block is now composed of the don`t knows ( some say don`t care!).

This is not surprising.` As I have argued in my publication last year the case for Malta` membership in the EU is neither` black nor white.` There can hardly be rigid yes or no positions. It is more a case of` `yes if` and `no but`.

I have little sympathy for the extreme position of the CNI that pronounce their no position in the most categorical of terms and support their argument by pretensions that Malta could prosper by developing an inward looking economy retaining its import protection measures on a more or less permanent basis.

My logic tells me that a small economy like ours could only grow and prosper if we are outward looking developing our niches in a globalised market place where no one owes us a living.` Can this be achieved better within or outside EU membership`

The membership option is still being largely a one size fits all solution. This` takes away our most privileged natural resource, that of having a strategic importance much bigger than our physical size. It is clear to me that prosperity is more likely achieved by retaining the flexibility to be different from the rest. This to me is the meaning of Labour`s Switzerland in the Mediterranean model.` It is the endorsement of the thesis that as a small nation we thrive by being different, by retaining our flexibility to mould our own future, to preserve our strategic importance and gently leverage it to obtain commercial advantages. Like Switzerland this does not say no in big bold capital letters to EU membership. It says a gentle no thank you, not now,` may be later when you`re you are flexible enough to permit small countries the possibility `to retain the advantages of` their` small size.

It is regretted that IVA movement is to promote the government`s unconditional total surrender-like approach to EU membership when what is needed is a `yes if` approach. The development of a set of pre-conditions which Malta will not be willing to concede to the EU neither at the outset nor after a transitional period.

While distancing myself from CNI rigid no position, I continue to follow my logic in arguing` the case for the no, but position. No thank you, not now may be later when your rules would be flexible enough to permit some tailoring to Malta`s own requirements; when a real consensus is developed among the people to ensure that this once in a nation`s life-time irreversible step is taken in the most broad-based determined manner possible.

Meanwhile I am curiously await the` Danish referendum yes or no to the Euro. This could be a watershed stage for the EU prompting it to choose between a rigid Union in which Malta should not aspire for a place, or a more loose variable geometry system which could meet the requirements of both Switzerland and Malta.

Alfred Mifsud

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