German Chancellor Angela Merkel lauded Malta’s “excellent” economic performance yesterday after meeting Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, who immediately reciprocated the praise.
Malta has amply proved that one can still achieve positive results in a difficult environment
“I certainly endorse her and wish her all the best” is how Dr Gonzi concluded a joint press conference in Berlin when the leaders were asked whether the visit was intended to improve anyone’s electoral chances, given both Christian-Democrats face re-election this year.
Ms Merkel was more coy, dead-panning the question by saying her election was scheduled for September and the visit was organised a while ago following her visit to Malta in January 2011.
Also, she tried to make a habit of meeting her EU counterparts.
“Malta has amply proved that one can still achieve positive results in a difficult environment,” said the Chancellor at the start of the press conference.
She also used the opportunity to back Malta’s stand in the negotiations on the EU’s new seven-year budget.
Although Malta could no longer be a recipient of cohesion funds, it would cause a “great rupture” if no chance was given for a transition, she said, adding that both countries required “clarity as soon as possible” on the budget.
The leaders discussed the “positive” developments in Libya and the importance of defending Europe from more financial upheaval by strengthening the institutions.
She said important steps were taken last year as a basis for future consolidation and stability.
Ms Merkel praised Malta for attracting German tourists (including English-language learners) and business investments, namely Playmobil and Lufthansa, which were welcomed “with open arms”. Dr Gonzi declared Malta’s support for reforms that would protect against a repeat of “what happened in the past five years”.
He made Malta’s case for special consideration in the EU budget and said he hoped a decision would be taken by February, when a summit is expected to be held.
Dr Gonzi spoke about the importance of Europe’s support of the democratic changes in North Africa and thanked Germany for its assistance with irregular migration, “which continues to be a major headache for Malta.”
He also said he was extremely proud of German investment in Malta.
The two leaders were asked about Cyprus, with Ms Merkel saying there could be no special bailout conditions that did not include economic reforms like privatisation, which have been ruled out by the island’s outgoing President.
“We agree it is important that the troika should talk with Cyprus and that there can be no special conditions for Cyprus because we have common rules in Europe,” Ms Merkel said.“We are far from the end of the talks.”
Dr Gonzi said that privatisation was one of the key elements that had helped Malta move forward and make its economy more competitive.
After the press conference, Dr Gonzi, accompanied by Foreign Minister Francis Zammit Dimech, also met with the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Speaking to the press after the meeting, Dr Gonzi said Germany had always lent a sympathetic ear to Malta, whether it was on irregular immigration or Malta’s position on the EU budget.