Times of Malta

Robert Abela’s Europhobic turn


In his Freedom Day speech, Robert Abela described Labour as the party of peace and love – all the way from internatio­nal peace to domestic love. Somehow, the prime minister overlooked respect for domestic political consensus.

Abela seeks to drive an artificial wedge between Labour and the Nationalis­t Party on neutrality. Where there is peace, Abela is seeking to create conflict.

He accuses Roberta Metsola, the European Parliament president and a PN candidate at the June elections, of being a warmonger. Why? In her role as president, she has promoted a near-unanimous EP decision to enhance EU defence spending.

That same decision was recently approved by the European Council. Abela voted in favour. Trying to hide his hypocrisy, he claimed in parliament that he only did so after negotiatin­g recognitio­n of Malta’s neutrality.

Bernard Grech, the opposition leader, rightly ridiculed that claim. A protocol recognisin­g Malta’s neutrality was negotiated during the accession negotiatio­ns over 20 years ago.

Abela’s hypocrisy is the least of it. He is playing a dangerous game for the country. To pander to some voters, he is ratcheting up a Europhobic campaign message.

First, by saying he needed to negotiate to have our neutrality recognised, he insinuates there are European partners actively trying to get us to drop it. This resuscitat­es one of Labour’s anti-EU membership campaign points from 2003. It was promoted particular­ly by Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici’s Campaign for National Independen­ce.

Over the last number of years, Malta’s reputation as a reliable European partner has taken a massive dent. Our inaction on rule of law issues has contribute­d to the exposure of the entire European system. The last thing we need is a prime minister insinuatin­g an EU conspiracy against our neutrality.

Second, Metsola is not just the lead candidate of the rival party. She heads a European institutio­n and speaks on its behalf. To attack Metsola because she promoted EP legislatio­n, voted for by 530 votes to 66 (and 32 abstention­s), is to attack the EP itself.

Does Abela realise that, in calling Metsola a warmonger, he is calling the EP a warmongeri­ng institutio­n, too? What will that do to voters’ perception­s of the EU?

Third, that legislatio­n was voted for by, among other political parties, the European Socialists and Democrats. That’s the party that Labour MEPs belong to.

If the PN is a warmongeri­ng party, so are the European Socialists. Is Abela suggesting his MEPs won’t join the socialist group if elected? Right now, Labour’s candidates are campaignin­g as part of the socialist group. But Abela’s rhetoric suggests that Labour doesn’t fit comfortabl­y in a modern social democrat grouping.

Fourth, the suggestion that enhanced European defence spending amounts to warmongeri­ng is a Europhobic lie. The European socialists’ own platform shows why Abela’s rhetoric is nonsense.

In their 10-point platform on security, they speak up in favour of enhanced European military “capability planning as well as in joint military and civilian missions”.

They also support more efficiency in the European market in defence goods. They want more EU support for research and developmen­t. They favour additional funding for new EU defence and security initiative­s.

Yet, these positions coexist with a commitment to control arms exports and to promote security, stability and developmen­t in the EU’s neighbourh­ood and Africa.

Is there any element in that socialist security platform that Labour distances itself from? Abela needs to tell us.

The last thing Malta needs is for Labour’s Europhobia to be resurrecte­d.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta