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The elusive Gozo declaration

I refer to Simon Busuttil's contribution (July 18) titled Who Cares About Gozo.

Dr Busuttil says he is "honoured to have been entrusted with the vote of thousands of Gozitans in the last European Parliament elections and I therefore want to set the record straight on an issue that I have followed at close quarters".

Unfortunately, Dr Busuttil's exposition is a confirmation that the Gozitans' trust in him was utterly misplaced.

Dr Busuttil has evidently mounted the Nationalist bandwagon following the leader in an insipid campaign to take the Gozitans for a ride.

The issue on which Dr Busuttil wanted to set the record straight concerns the Declaration By Malta On The Island Region Of Gozo, which the Maltese government annexed to the Treaty of Accession "spelling out its intentions to continue addressing Gozo's specific needs effectively".

With the Nationalists there is obviously much truth in the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The declared intentions of the Nationalist government were nothing but an effective ploy to rob the Gozitans of their vote in the referendum on Malta's accession to the European Union and in the elections for the national Parliament in 2003 and for the European one in 2004. Those intentions have not been maintained and Gozo has sunk into a hell of a mess of problems with no hope of solving so long as the Nationalists remain in government.

The issue raised by Dr Busuttil confirms that.

Writing in special edition No. 18 of Aggornat in February 2003, Dr Busuttil, as head of the official Malta-EU Information Centre, said that, and I quote verbatim, "the final paragraph of the declaration states that before the EU decides on a new budget - and therefore before it decides on a new alocation of EU funding - Malta will request the Commission to report on the economic and social situation of Gozo. The report should focus in particular on the disparities in the social and economic development levels between Gozo and Malta. The Commission will be asked to propose ways, whether through EU funding or other measures, to ensure that the disparaties between Gozo and Malta will continue to be reduced and that Gozo continues to integrate into the internal market on fair conditions".

Dr Busuttil went on to say that "the first Gozo report will be carried out before the next EU budget that will be adopted in 2006. To be approved, the EU budget will need the agreement of all EU countries (unanimity), including Malta".

Then to make Gozo's position even more crystal clear, Dr Busuttil explained how "the declaration also provides for the situation that may arise if Malta, as a whole, loses its eligibility to the highest level of EU funding, whereas Gozo on its own would still lag behind... It was agreed that in such a case, the Commission report on Gozo would assess whether the specific economic situation of Gozo justifies its continued eligibility and the conditions under which it should be eligible".

Dr Busuttil could not have been clearer and it was on that clear statement that the Gozitans voted for him in their thousands.

However, he who pays the piper plays the tune. Dr Busuttil is now piping a different tune, a tune set by the Nationalist Party that successfully launched him into the political arena.

Indeed, Dr Busuttil's volte-face butts you in the head.

In his contribution to The Times he has gone to great lengths to justify the government's serious failure to ask the EU Commission to carry out, before the EU budget that was adopted in 2006, a report on the socio-economic development of Gozo.

He is now saying that the declaration on Gozo "is only relevant if and when Malta loses its eligibility for the highest level of EU funding which is not the case at least until 2013".

Intelligenti pauca. The Gozitans have much more grey matter and a larger memory bank than Dr Busuttil credits us with.

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