Fausto asks for more punditry, more issues and less “narcissism”. He is entitled to believe that other issues have priority than having your right to vote freely hijacked. He is right insofar as we have concentrated on this issue and let other issues like the reception class, MEPA reform, Rent reform and economic maneuvers like the surcharge and overtime tax on the wayside. I’d like to begin with a question to the Eurosceptics. I’m assuming that most of them form part of the Labour camp – it having been the only party to have actively objected to accession.
This is how the Maltese European No Campaign reported its hopes that the Labour party would in some way force the hand of the Nationalist government to a referendum regarding ratification of the Constitution on their site:
27 June 05 – latest update from Kevin Ellul Bonici:
Although the Maltese PM has been hammering at his intention to ratify the Constitution through Parliament, he has also stated that he would prefer to have the opposition Labour Party in agreement for a unanimous vote(he had already postponed ratification due to Labour’s postponement on the vote in November 2004). Although the Labour Party leadership, led by Alfred Sant, has pronounced itself in favour of the Constitution and its ratification, the issue is far from settled. The final vote that would determine whether Labour is in favour or not will be taken at the party’s General Conference starting on 30 June and concluding 3 July. Many of the 900 delegates are said to be against the Constitution, with a faction publicly uttering its disapproval at the leadership’s U-turn. The outcome is still open and the battle is fierce. If the Labour Conference votes No, then the Labour opposition cannot vote in favour in parliament and it is not known what the prime minister would then do – whether to move on and call Labour “eurosceptics” , or decide to postpone in view of his earlier pronouncements. The former would be expected, but eurosceptism at party level would survive in Malta.
Let us see what happened when it came to ratifying the reformed Treaty… an EU Business report at the time:
(VALLETTA) – Malta on Tuesday became the third European Union member state to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon, which EU leaders hope all countries will endorse well before European Parliament elections in 2009. The Mediterranean island state’s House of Representatives voted unanimously to approve a motion of ratification put by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who said the treaty was a strong instrument for Europe to move forward. “We began this legislature in 2003 following a referendum which approved EU membership. We are at the end of the legislature with the approval of this treaty,” he said. Opposition leader Alfred Sant said that through the treaty, “the ideals of a social Europe are being implemented.”
The Maltese Eurosceptics would have wanted Labour to remain consistent and force a more legitimate way of ratifying the constitution or the revised version. In this they are being consistent with the Eurosceptic movement across Europe (and probably even a good amount of not so Eurosceptic people who would have preferred to be consulted on this issue). The Labour party consulted its delegates and proceeded to vote in favour of the ratification and avoiding any talk of referendum. Admittedly the current Labour leader has often gone on record that consulting the people on referendum is useless for him and the only valid measure for mandates is a General Election. Which is not surprising seeing his uncanny way of interpreting referendum results.
Here is European No Campaign’s comment upon ratification (author Kevin Ellul Bonici):
On 2 July 2005 the Malta Labour Party (MLP) general conference approved 86% the leadership’s proposal to vote in favour of the ratification of the EU Constitution in the Maltese Parliament. The parliamentary debate is to start on 6 July. In his closing address the Labour Party leader, Alfred Sant, maintained that the party cannot turn the clock back. He confirmed that the party had been right in opposing EU membership, but now withdrawal is not advantageous, he said, completely ignoring the fact that not one opponent of the EU Constitution had mentioned withdrawing from the Union. Those who disagree, however, are still welcome in the MLP, added Sant, without specying whther they will be able to speak their miond or follow party dictat. The MLP is therefore expected to join Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi’s PN in a unanimous parliamentary vote to ratify the Constitutional Treaty. The prime minister has insisted this would be Malta’s clear message to Europe. Meanwhile, while Malta’s parliamentary representatives hug the EU Constitution, the majority of the population remains sceptical according to polls.
Now my question is – and here I am sure the Vivamalta crowd will revel in the discussion and try to avoid sidetracking mudslinging… How does a convinced Eurosceptic vote in this election? On what side of the equation will someone like Kevin Ellul Bonici (of the No Campaign) sit? Does the Labour slap in the face to the calls for referendum mean that the Labour Party is no longer a good platform for Eurosceptic campaigns? Does it affect a vote on national level seeing that the Labour Party is trying its best (within reasonable constraints) to play ball with the EU?
Before any PN Sant-basher comes back with the Labour party’s record let us remember that on issues such as Hunting, Funding, and renegotiation, the Labour party now claims to operate WITHIN the EU framework and not without. I am sorry I have not fallen for the spin of withdrawing Malta from the EU. Like PN, the MLP has recognised the value of using the EU as a screen for difficult tasks. Like the PN, MLP will bow to an ECJ decision on hunting. Unlike the PN but in a similar fashion, Sant claims he will renegotiate the situation viz drydocks and agriculture. What PN are trying hard not to admit is that every leader of State CAN try to renegotiate issues with regards to national interest. What PN SHOULD be pressing on is the impossibility of what Sant is proposing to achieve – something I suspect Sant himself knows, but then again the promise is to negotiate and does not necessarily mean he believes in a positive outcome. Childplay… but that too is a result of MLPN politics.
So. Let’s hear some Eurosceptics. What choice for a convinced Eurosceptic? I’m not sure that they will repeat “Definitely not Labour” but while we are at it… will the real Kevin Ellul Bonici please stand up?