(Adds statements by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, PL and PN)

The European Commission and Council have managed to get their way and will be able to introduce new rules of engagement during this year’s anti-migration patrol missions coordinated by Frontex as the resolution to reject these rules approved by the Civil Liberties Committee last week didn’t manage to garner the necessary support of the Socialist group in the EP.

Although the resolution, approved last week, following a suggestion by Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil, was approved by 336 votes in favour, 253 against and 30 abstentions in today’s vote during the plenary session, this was not enough to go through as the resolution needed a qualified majority of 369 members.

Since the qualified majority was not achieved, the new Frontex guidelines are now adopted and can be implemented by Frontex.

The new rules were already approved by the EU Council earlier on this year despite the objections of Malta which views them against its interests.

According to the new rules, all irregular immigrants and asylum seekers saved on the high-seas during a Frontex mission have to be taken to the mission’s host country and not to the closer safe port. This means that if Malta hosts a Frontex mission in the future, as it has done in the past two years, it will have to take all the illegal immigrants found at sea.

Malta has already declared that it will not continue to take part in Frontex missions under these rules.

Though almost all the major political forces in the EP supported Dr Busuttil’s suggestion to reject the rules, the Socialist group, the second largest political group, supported the guidelines and was instrumental in tilting today’s vote.

Despite voting in favour of a rejection and against their group’s wishes, the vote of the three Maltese Labour MEPs was not enough to secure an absolute majority in favour of a rejection.

Labour’s head of delegation Louis Grech last week admitted that despite trying, Malta’s Labour delegation did not convince the rest of the Socialist group to reject the new rules.

LABOUR INCAPABLE OF DEFENDING MALTA'S INTERESTS

PN MEP Simon Busuttil said that the failure of the EP to reject the Frontex rules with just 33 votes short of the required majority showed that the Labour Party was incapable of defending Malta's interests.

Before the vote, after Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Socialist MEP Michael Cashman appealed for an approval of the rules, Dr Busuttil made the case for rejection stating that, in presenting these rules, the Commission had exceeded its powers.

336 MEPs voted to reject the rules, just 33 votes short of the required majority - with 253 approving them and 30 abstentions.

The Socialist and Communist groups supported the rules.

"We always knew it but this confirms it: Labour is just bluff," Dr Busuttil said criticising the Labour MEPs on their failure to convince their Socialist colleagues to support the rejection.

"We needed the Labour MEPs to convince the Socialist Group to reject these rules, just like I did with my group. But they failed and were not even able to help us get another 33 votes," he said.

"Barely a year ago, during the campaign for the European Parliament election, the Labour Party presented itself as the party that could fight effectively for Malta's interests. We get a great deal of fiery rhetoric from them.

“But despite having three MEPs and soon four, when push comes to shove, Labour proves to be completely ineffective. They are incapable of defending Malta's interests," he concluded.

GOOD NUMBER OF EPP MEMBERS ALSO VOTED AGAINST MALTA - PL

The PL’s delegation voted in the national interest and against the position taken by the majority in the European Parliament.

Contrary to the impression that had been given, a good number of members of the EPP also voted in favour of the regulations and against Malta.

Using Dr Busuttil’s argument, Dr Busuttil and the PN delegation had not been capable of convincing all EPP members to vote in Malta’s interest.

LABOUR CANNOT BE TRUSTED TO DEFEND MALTA'S INTERESTS

The PN described the vote as another failed opportunity for Labour in the EU and another unfortunate case which proves that Labour could not be trusted to stand tall and defend Malta’s interests.

It said this was another missed opportunity by Labour in the EU to defend Malta’s rights when and where it mattered. It was another classical example that when the country needed them most, the Maltese Labour MEPs were of no help at all. Out of three Labour MEPs in the EP, John Attard Montalto was not present for the vote, it said.

The PN said that Labour, in spite of having the majority of MEPs in the EP failed to convince the Socialist Group to reject the Frontex rules and the Maltese Labour MEPs were not even capable of getting 33 more votes on Malta’s side.

"When faced with the task of defending the country’s interests Labour, despite the pre-MEP elections rhetoric, Labour failed to deliver," the PN said.

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