You were the person, together with Michael Frendo and Alfred Sant, who assented on behalf of Malta to the draft Constitution produced by the European Convention. That draft Constitution only very superficially disguised what has become known as the Lisbon Treaty. So what do you feel about the Irish 'No' and do you have any proposals?

I have been suggesting what could be done since the beginning of the Convention itself. Oddly enough, I sympathise with the reactions expressed by Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, although he is motivated by Euroscepticism and I by deep attachment to the authentic European ideal.

I am amazed that almost all those who reacted locally to the Irish 'No' have lamented the likely loss of our sixth MEP at least at the next European Parliament elections, but none of them has pointed out that with the treaty we would instead lose always having a Maltese Commissioner as well as our turn in the six-monthly cycle of hosting the Presidency on our own.

Now everybody recognises that having a Maltese Commissioner, even in a less important role than that held at present, is incomparably more advantageous for us than having a sixth MEP.

In my opinion, our Euro-diplomats and MEPs might most constructively be putting their heads together to excogitate some legal way in which the changes in representation at the European Parliament might conceivably be put into effect on their own merits outside the total Lisbon package, although that is by no means an easy task.

Should we not be considering the Lisbon Treaty from the point of view of general advancement towards the European ideal rather than just from the point of view of how it affects the strength of Maltese representation in the European institutions?

I have never been convinced that the proposals which are most often quoted as advances are not, rather, deviations from what I regard as the authentic European ideal. Neither the negation of each member state having a Commissioner, nor of the six-monthly rotation of the Presidency is in my judgment required by efficiency. For instance, it is not unheard of that a state has effectively 30 or more ministers, senior and junior.

The real motivation of the changes was what has been called the 'Gulliver complex', i.e. the extraordinary fear that seems to have seized the big countries at the prospect of the Union having a majority of small countries.

That led to the near abandonment of the original fundamental tenet of European democracy, which was balancing equal status of each citizen with equal status of each state.

Moreover, the creation of the post of President of the Union is not an answer to any genuine need (as implied by Kissinger's question: What is the telephone number of Mr Europe?) but was certainly motivated in its proponents, the UK, by their obsessive desire to divest the President of the Commission of his hitherto uncontested credentials as Mr Europe.

Even the proposals to increase the role of Parliament were primarily animated by the idea of shifting the balance of power towards Parliament where representation is roughly proportional to size of country and away from the Commission or Council where there is much more equality between member states whatever their size.

Among the reasons for the negative Irish vote as they appear in Irish sources on internet is the fear that more decision-taking by majority voting (rather than by consensus) and more weight to the Parliament could endanger the exclusive national competence on issues related to national identity.

This fear was paradoxically increased by the kind of quasi-obscene adverts put out by the youth branch of the main Opposition Party, Young Fine Gael. They visually suggested that a 'Yes' vote would ensure freer sex, both male and female! Actually because of the minority turnout at European elections, representation in the Parliament is usually even more unreflective of the true relative strengths of the parties than the Maltese, which already inverts the results of our general elections.

What then is your proposal for a way out of the impasse that has lasted since first in France, then in Holland and now in Ireland there have been popular declarations of dissatisfaction with the proposed Constitution or its disguise in the form of the Lisbon Treaty?

From the start of my participation at the Convention on behalf of the Maltese government, I consistently said that the European Union was an original political entity unlike a federal state in many respects and best described as a 'network'.

To give it a Constitution (or any other name) that made it appear as if it were a federal state would be deceptive and not according to what majority popular opinion favours almost throughout Europe. The literary form of the appropriate legal document ought to be that of the description of a network.

I was, of course, authorised to put forward this point of view with the caution and modesty that befitted a small candidate country that had earned a very bad name in the recent past by obstructing consensus.

My position was moreover in line with that of the group of small countries that were at first nicknamed 'The Seven Dwarfs' because we were seven at first; it later comprised all the smaller countries. However, many of us were still candidate countries and some of the others were hoping for advantages because of their long standing membership. It was not advantageous to press the idea.

For the same reason, it was strategically opportune for the Maltese Parliament to ratify both the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty. However, we should also be grateful to the Irish for following the example of the French and the Dutch and voting 'No'. This may be the opportune moment to propose the 'network' solution.

Fr Peter Serracino Inglott was talking to Miriam Vincenti.

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