Former Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis this morning called on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to rethink his decision of stepping down before the next general election.
Addressing the last political activity of 2017 in Mġarr and in the presence of Dr Muscat, Dr Zammit Lewis was full of praise for his leader while drawing parallels to football.
“We have become used to big victories…we are trying to persuade you not to step down and with you at the helm we want to remain like the Real Madrid of politics,” the former minister said as those present burst in applause while chanting “Joseph, Joseph…”
The Prime Minister, however, made no reference at all this appeal, when he addressed the activity a short while later.
Confused coalition - Muscat
Touching on the political situation he noted that the dissolution of the Forza Nazzjonali was further testament that the PD-PN coalition was one of confusion.
“We might be laughing today, but had the people chosen otherwise in June they would be in tears. How can you leave the country in the hands of a coalition which is not even capable of leading the Opposition?” he remarked.
Dr Muscat described the Forza Nazzjonali as the result of an Opposition which spent four years adopting a negative approach.
In his speech, he also referred to the testimony given earlier this week before the European Parliament by Maria Efimova, the whistleblower in the Pilatus Bank and Egrant allegations.
Dr Muscat renewed his vow that if such allegations would turn up to be true he would resign on the spot, while renewing the challenge to Simon Busuttil to do the same.
He added that contrary to what had been reported, the whistleblower had not presented any documents to the EP, and sounding a stern warning to those who, in his words, had spread such “lies”.
“This will not end here. I will not forget who tried to do such thing. I want the truth to prevail.”
Dr Muscat noted that all Air Malta collective agreements bar that for pilots had been concluded. Dr Muscat warned that the future to the airline hinged on the pilots’ decision.
“We want Air Malta to be a Mediterranean carrier. However, we need all employees to endorse this vision,” he said.
“I believe we are close, but nobody can keep Air Malta and the country hostage. Government has made a very strong offer to pilots,” the Prime Minister added.
While expressing his commitment to bring Air Malta on solid ground, he urged pilots to realize that this was is a delicate moment.
“You will be getting considerable wage increases, and now we expect you to keep your commitment in favour of flexibility, which you had made in August last year”.
More investment on the way
Dr Muscat remarked the government was still gaining momentum, in terms of employment, investment and job creation.
“Next week will be full of very good news for Malta in terms of investment. It will herald a historic development which will vindicate government’s strategy,” he said.
“I am proud of the Maltese people that we are not resting on our laurels but striving to better the results.”
He also lauded recent EU data that the materially deprived have been halved.
“We changed direction in 2013 and did not stop midway through. The second half of this journey will see us reaping the benefits of measures taken in the first half.”
Pesco defence Pact
The Prime Minister said that the government was advised that there nothing in an EU security and defence pact which breached Malta’s neutrality clause.
While pointing out that this was not a European army as some had branded it, he said that nevertheless the government had adopted a wait-and-see approach until further details emerged.
Malta was one of three EU member states to stay out of the pact earlier this week.
However, Dr Muscat noted that regardless of this pact, other Member States were already obliged to come to our defence should Malta come under attack.
The Prime Minister said some of government’s work was not making headlines.
He referred to an accident in Austria earlier this week which caused disruptions in the gas and power supply across Europe, as the pipeline from Russia was damaged.
He noted that this resulted in a sharp rise in electricity prices, including in Italy, leading to the price of electricity through the interconnector “exploding”.
“Had we not built a new power plant and relied solely on the interconnector, Malta would have had to increase energy prices,” he pointed out.
Similarly, had Malta not made an 18-year power purchasing agreement as part of the new power plant, Enemalta would have had to impose a surcharge.
EP tax haven vote
While thanking Labour MEPs for voting against a resolution to call Malta a tax haven, Dr Muscat questioned the PN’s official position on the issue of tax sovereignty.
He accused PN MEPs of backing a report calling for the removal of Member States’ veto on tax matters. “I challenge the PN if this is the party’s policy or the MEPs stance alone”, he said.
The EP vote ended in a stalemate and was not carried by a single vote.
A year of achievements
Rounding off his final political address of the year, the Prime Minister described 2017 as 12 months of achievements.
Malta’s EU Presidency, the minimum wage increase, lowering of taxes, introduction of gay marriages, new foreign investment, increase in tourism arrivals, lowering unemployment, reducing poverty and increasing surplus were some of the results mentioned by Dr Muscat.
“This gives me more courage that apart from having increased our popular support in the last general election, we will keep forging ahead to prepare Malta for the next generation,” he said.