KMB: Mintoff was against freezing talks with the EU in 1996
Dom Mintoff had disagreed with the Labour government's decision to freeze EU membership talks in 1996, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici said today.
Writing in l-orizzont, Dom Mintoff's successor said: When the Nationalist Party lost the 1996 general election, Mintoff did not agree that the Labour government should stop the talks with the EU.
"He was of the view that the government should seize the opportunity presented by the EU membership talks to persuade the EU to reach an agreement with Malta, not for membership, but for an association in various sectors so that the union could help Malta reduce the huge debt which the Nationalist governments of 1987 and 1992 had run up."
Dr Mifsud Bonnici said the said that Mr Mintoff's Front Maltin Inqumu had also disagreed with the line taken by the Kampanja Helsien Nazzjonali which had been against the resumption of EU membership talks by the new Nationalist government in 1998.
Mr Mintoff's position was different from those of the PN, the PL or the Kampanja Helsien Nazzjonali. His position was that that the EU wanted Malta within its fold, and Malta should therefore exploit that situation. He was convinced that he could lead the EU to accept an association with Malta without Malta actually becoming a member, Dr Mifsud Bonnici said.
It was bad luck for Malta that Mr Mintoff could not lead the talks with the EU, Dr Mifsud Bonnici added. He did what he could, and even had talks with (EU Commission President) Romano Prodi in Brussels in 2003. But Prof Prodi said the EU could not discuss what he was advocating, once the government had adopted a different line.
As a result, the only choice which the people had in the EU referendum was not really between membership or partnership, but membership or nothing, Dr Mifsud Bonnic said. And nothing was interpreted as meaning that Malta would have been isolated.
Dr Mifsud Bonnici said it was shameful that the Nationalists had not utilised Mr Mintoff's negotiating skills in their talks with the EU, even though it was thanks to him that they were in a position to reopen the talks in 1998.