Muscat: EU's €1.2 billion to Malta not at risk
UPDATED - Prime Minister Joseph Muscat today gave an assurance that the €1.12 billion allocated to Malta in the EU's Budget talks are not in risk.
Addressing a joint press conference with the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, after a lunchtime meeting, Dr Muscat reacted to yesterday's EP resolution which was interpreted as a rejection of the EU Budget (The multi-annual financial framework). The resolution criticised aspects of negotiated deal but was not an outright rejection of the seven year budget which still has to be voted upon by the EP after further negotiations.
"Let me give my reassurance that we do not envisage a situation where the Maltese allocation can be jeopardised. We will be very careful about this. But our aim in the next few weeks would not simply be to adopt a passive approach but a more balanced approach where differences can be bridged," Dr Muscat said.
He was given a very warm welcome by Mr Schulz who said it was an "exceptional pleasure to welcome a real friend" in these new official circumstances.
He recalled working closely with Dr Muscat within the European Parliament as colleagues of the Party of European Socialists.
Dr Muscat is in Brussels ahead of the traditional spring EU summit which is expected to focus on growth and employment.He is accompanied by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna.
Asked whether he would ally himself with French President Francois Hollande, who is pushing for growth, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is seen as a defender of austerity, Dr Muscat said: "We will side with common sense."
He said Malta was committed to good governance but would push for a balanced approach to economic growth and job creation.
Dr Muscat pointed out that as a former MEP - like several other current EU heads of government - he could push for a balanced outcome, helping other member states to understand the position of Parliament, which is open to negotiation.
Mr Schulz stressed that the Parliament did not want to see the EU "repeat the mistakes" of countries that failed to balance their budgets.
Earlier, Dr Muscat said he was nostalgic to have returned to the European Parliament building after a long absence and was proud to have come back as the Prime Minister of a "staunchly pro-European Government" which had three former MEPs in its top ranks.
Dr Muscat said he was very committed to continuity with the previous Government when it came to "most issues" but with a more progressive outlook towards a social Europe focused on growth and good governance.
Dr Muscat and Mr Schulz demonstrated their close friendship to the press, embracing each other as they walked down the red carpet entrance of the European Parliament Building. "Here is your Prime Minister," Mr Schulz told the Maltese press proudly.
Dr Muscat will tomorrow have a meeting with EU Commission President Jose' Manuel Barroso.