The democratic side of the fence – Michael Briguglio

Times of Malta, Friday, 27th June 2008


I thank Angelo Micallef (On Which Side Of The Fence Is AD Councillor? June 23) for giving me the opportunity to make my position clear regarding the EU in general and the Lisbon Treaty in particular.

Mr Micallef is implying that being against the proposed Lisbon Treaty means being against the EU. While this is the case with eurosceptics, my beliefs are otherwise, as I am not a eurosceptic. Indeed, in the referendum campaign in 2003, I was very much active in the political and public spheres, including the mass media, arguing in favour of Malta's EU membership.

Yet this does not mean that I agree with everything that is proposed or decided upon by the EU Commission or other European institutions. I don't think that there is anything strange in this. Indeed, the EU is constantly characterised by political debate and opposing views of political, national and social actors involved. This is the essence of democracy.

As regards the EU treaty itself, it was not part of the EU accession package. Personally, I cannot agree with proposals which promote the dismantling of public services and the removal of various rights which workers have won during the years. I strongly believe that, irrespective of the proposals within the Treaty's text, it should be up to the peoples of Europe to decide whether they are in favour of such massive changes. In this regard, may I remind Mr Micallef that it is not only the Irish who rejected the Treaty, but also the French and the Dutch, under its previous title of "European Constitution".

Maltese citizens should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they are in favour of the EU Treaty. Unfortunately, we have been denied this possibility. Where are the self-proclaimed democrats and liberals who preached about the virtues of a referendum in 2003? Are they in favour of a referendum only when it suits their interests?

As for my activism as public relations officer of Żminijietna - Voice of the Left and local councillor of Alternattiva Demokratika, I see no contradiction. Within European politics, the Left and the Greens are frequently allied together, and, within the Greens themselves, there is a sizeable minority of pro-EU activists who, nevertheless, are against the text of the proposed Lisbon Treaty.

At this point, it would be worthwhile to reflect on the possible contribution of the Irish vote. This verdict could help the EU become more democratic and transparent, while emphasising the values of social justice and ecological sustainability.

Small countries including Malta could ultimately benefit from the Irish No. This is why I happen to agree with the statement made by Minister Tonio Borg who, though disagreeing with the Irish vote, said that: "We can't argue that because Ireland is a small country it should not block the process of ratification. These are the rules and we must stick to them. As a small member state, we (Malta) must insist on this as unanimity is the guarantee provided by the EU so that small- and medium-sized countries can safeguard their interests." (June 17).

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