Malta’s pres­i­dency will not just fea­ture Brexit and mi­gra­tion – PM

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

The whole Cabi­net has flown to Brus­sels for dif­fer­ent events mostly linked with prepa­ra­tions lead­ing up to Malta tak­ing over the pres­i­dency of the Euro­pean Union in Jan­uary.

The Cabi­net is led by Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat, who yes­ter­day started his ap­point­ments in the Bel­gian cap­i­tal with meet­ings with the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, Martin Shultz, and the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, Don­ald Tusk.

The meet­ings dealt with the EU pres­i­dency and the in­for­mal sum­mit to be held in Fe­bru­ary.

Malta’s role as bridge builder is ‘key’ for EU pres­i­dency - Prime Min­is­ter

Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat said that one of Malta’s best qual­i­ties, that of be­ing a ‘bridge builder,’ is key for its role as Pres­i­dent of the EU Coun­cil. He also said that Malta’s pres­i­dency will not just fea­ture Brexit and mi­gra­tion.

Malta’s term be­gins in Jan­uary, and will last for six months. Dr Mus­cat was ad­dress­ing a joint press con­fer­ence with EU Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Junker. Malta’s Cabi­net, led by Dr Mus­cat, are cur­rently in Brus­sels on sep­a­rate events all re­lated to the up­com­ing pres­i­dency. Ad­dress­ing mem­bers of the press, he said that the govern­ment has “no delu­sions of grandeur”.

“The role and the job is what it is, it has been re-di­men­sioned over the past few years. We will stick to our job prop­erly, get­ting things done, mak­ing sure that EU does not grind to a stop and stick to the things that mat­ter. We will give our in­put when that in­put is needed.”

He said that the trio pro­gramme – com­prised of Malta, Slove­nia and the Nether­lands – will be fo­cus­ing on achieve­ments in the dig­i­tal econ­omy when it comes to the sin­gle mar­ket, as well as new ideas and ar­eas of progress on the Euro­pean so­cial pil­lar.

“Our ad­van­tage is that we are nat­u­ral bridge builders, we try to forge com­pro­mises in a way that makes the fu­ture work­able.

“There will be crises to solve, both known and un­known. The next six months will not just be about Brexit and mi­gra­tion. There is a lot of other work that needs to be done to im­prove the liveli­hood of our peo­ple. We want to make what­ever we say is more com­pre­hen­si­ble to ev­ery­one – mak­ing peo­ple un­der­stand what our work is and how it af­fects their lives.

“One thing we can draw from the cur­rent global trends is that much en­ergy needs to go to lis­ten­ing to peo­ple and act­ing on their con­cerns.

“We are work­ing with one of the most proac­tive com­mis­sions that we can imag­ine and hope for. We hope that as pres­i­dency we will help the com­mis­sion to carry out their du­ties as best they can.”

‘No sur­prises’ that Malta is very pre­pared for pres­i­dency - Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Junker

Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent JeanClaude Junker said that it is “no sur­prise that Malta is very pre­pared for the up­com­ing EU Coun­cil Pres­i­dency,” while ad­dress­ing the press con­fer­ence.

He said that “Malta is a se­ri­ous coun­try, down to earth,” adding that it is a “small coun­try with great am­bi­tions.” It must be noted that both the govern­ment of Malta and the govern­ment of Lux­em­bourg have both been em­broiled in fi­nan­cial con­tro­versy, the for­mer hav­ing to do with the Panama Pa­pers scan­dal in­volv­ing the PM’s two most trusted men, and the lat­ter in­volv­ing Lux­em­bourg’s for­mer prac­tice to of­fer se­cret spe­cial tax rul­ings that si­phoned off tax­able prof­its from nearby mem­ber states.

“I am quite con­vinced that next year we will have six good months. Malta is not putting on the top of the agenda its na­tional con­cerns, but Euro­pean con­cerns. I am en­vis­ag­ing the Mal­tese pres­i­dency not with hope, but with the ex­pec­ta­tion that the Euro­pean pro­gramme will be good for the next six months.”

He spoke of the pos­i­tive re­la­tions and friend­ship he holds with Dr Mus­cat, even go­ing so far as to say:

“I like Prime Min­is­ter Mus­cat, I won’t say that I love him, well maybe I do love Prime Min­is­ter Mus­cat.”

He quipped that when Malta joined the EU in 2004 he was ec­static be­cause that meant that Lux­em­bourg will no longer be the small­est coun­try in the EU.

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