Prime Minister Joseph Muscat described the forthcoming European Parliament and local council elections as a “choice between hope and fear” during a political rally in Valletta marking Workers’ Day.

Dr Muscat continued his attack on the Opposition’s “fearmongering” over immigration, urging voters to choose “inclusion” over “isolation”, while playing up the government’s advances in the social justice sphere over the last five years.

“You cannot play the European while seeding fear and hate towards those who are not Maltese,” Dr Muscat said. “This is too similar to the language of the far-right. Our country has always been part of a broader family, but where we used to look outwards for opportunity, now others look to us.

“This party brought this country freedom but it understands that freedom is not isolation.”

Taking the stage after speeches by deputy leader Chris Fearne and Frans Timmermans, the European Socialists’ candidate for the post of Commission president, Dr Muscat said the Labour Party remained focused on the three core principles of equality, social justice and social mobility.

“We have taken a country with a deficit and turned it into a surplus, not through austerity but through growth,” he said. “We are pro-business because we are pro-work. A country looking for work opportunities has turned into a country looking for workers.”

He highlighted the undertaking of the “largest social housing project in 40 years”, and said the government would soon be announcing a further increase in this regard.

He also referred to plans to introduce ‘quotas’ to boost female representation in Parliament, which he said would ensure equality of opportunity for young women, as well as measures such as free childcare and school transport, and the removal of exam fees.

Poverty, he said, had been cut by two-thirds, and workers’ priorities were turning towards having more time to spend with their families.

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans addresses the crowd. Photo: Jonathan Borg.European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans addresses the crowd. Photo: Jonathan Borg.

Referencing again the as-yet-undetailed massive ‘open space project’ he has drip-fed in recent days, Dr Muscat said: “We have to figure out how to provide for these new priorities. We would be making a mistake if we did not recognise the new aspirations of a changing society.”

Speaking before the Prime Minister, Mr Timmermans said Dr Muscat’s leadership would help Maltese people achieve their aspirations of “better equality, better social justice, better environment, and better public transport”.

He also said Malta could show leadership on social justice and equality on an international level, referring to achievements in the field of LGBT rights.

“Malta can show how big a small country can be when it comes to fundamental values,” he said.

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