Malta is making it clear it will not back any initiative to create an EU-wide shipping register or an EU flag and it will not allow Brussels to take the place of individual member states on the International Maritime Organisation.

Malta’s red lines were drawn by Transport Minister Austin Gatt during a meeting of EU transport ministers in Luxembourg which discussed a White Paper on the future of transport in the EU, submitted by the Commission a few weeks ago.

Malta has the second largest shipping register in the EU, making the island a leader in the area, so Dr Gatt indicated Malta will defend its position tooth and nail. He made sure to convey Malta’s message that the EU should not attempt to interfere in its maritime issues.

“Let me make it clear, Malta will not support any attempt by the EU to gain membership of the IMO in substitution of member states,” Dr Gatt told his colleagues.

“Malta does not support the creation of an EU flag or of an EU register for shipping. We consider ships and aircraft as a matter of an extension of national sovereignty,” he said. In its White Paper, the Commission proposed a number of initiatives in the transport sector aimed at creating a single European sector including rail, aviation and shipping. It also suggested that the EU should try to reduce transport-related emissions, particularly from shipping and aviation, by around 60 per cent by 2050.

This latter proposal was deemed “unrealistic” by the majority of member states, including Malta.

Describing this target as “very ambitious”, Dr Gatt said Malta would only be able to endorse this target if the EU considered it to be a milestone to be reached rather than “a prescribed obligation”.

He also warned that the EU should stop trying to take unilateral actions in this area as this would lead to loss of business for the EU and its member states.

“Future policies aimed at an energy-efficient transport system must be based on the reality that transport, especially shipping and aviation, is an international business.

“Any unilateral action taken by the EU, but not backed by international partners, only serves to condemn EU businesses,” Dr Gatt warned.

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