Robert Abela opened and closed his weekly interview on ONE media with a dig at Bernard Grech, who in December had stated on television that he would identify as Greek when travelling overseas because he was ashamed to admit he was Maltese.

“Sometimes I don’t believe what I hear or see. We should be proud across the board that we are Maltese and Gozitan. My main philosophy when I go abroad is that I’m proud of being Maltese… that is how we pass on our message and get the EU budget we want,” he said.

However, Abela also urged for national unity, inviting the new PN leader to the Labour party headquarters to discuss ideas that could bring the two parties together. 

Among others, he urged for cooperation on foreign policy and immigration.

‘Let’s have a common policy on migration’

On migration, Abela said that Malta had not had a single arrival in September, “a problematic month for immigration”.

The 38 migrants brought ashore on Saturday after being rescued by the Armed Forces of Malta the previous day will be repatriated, as they were from Morocco, he said. 

“I urge the opposition: let’s have a common policy on migration. The main message should be that we are full up... we cannot take more pressure from migration.”

He also urged Grech not to hinder the government’s work on migration as a member of a civil society group.

“We cannot have civil society factions, or opposition MPs, that instigate some other investigation because the government is taking a strong position on migration... middle roads don’t work.”

He referred to his statement at the Special European Council, held his week, where he insisted on a holistic, rather than compartmentalised, solution when it comes to issues relating to the Mediterranean. 

“We cannot consider Libya as a problem but as a country with which the EU can build good diplomatic relationships, the same way that Malta did over the past nine months.

“This would not only solve the migration issue, but the country could also offer an opportunity for potential investment by our businesspeople.”

‘A good, positive budget’

Answering questions about the budget for 2021, Abela said it will be a good, positive one that is in tune with the current circumstances and will lead to economic recovery. 

The prime minister said measures targeting pensioners will confirm the social spirit of the government, which will also keep up its drive for national projects. 

These projects would, in turn, improve the project offered to tourists, as the country should be at the forefront of providing a product of excellence when tourism picks up again, he said.

Other main pillars will be the environment and cleanliness, while improving people’s quality of life will remain a theme throughout, he added. 

Gender equality mechanism by next election 

In his weekly Sunday appointment, Abela also referred to a corrective mechanism that will see the “under-represented sex” get a guaranteed number of additional seats in parliament, aimed at promoting gender equality

The legislative measure will be tabled in parliament soon, and will start being applied at the next general election, he said.

By time, the mechanism might have to be scrapped as it would have reached its aim, or even start being applied to men, he noted. 

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