Recent events in North Africa have shown that the EU’s policy for the Mediterranean region has failed and needs to be rethought, according to Labour leader Joseph Muscat.

In a radio interview, Dr Muscat said the EU did not see this wave of revolution coming and this called for some serious “soul-searching” and political dialogue to ensure that projects such as the Mediterranean Union were more successful.

Although Dr Muscat said he would not comment too much on what was happening in Libya – since his role was not that of a commentator – he pointed out that even the rebels were adamantly against foreign interference.

“The international community needs to be aware of this,” he said, adding that Malta should be a humanitarian base but never a military one.

The uprising, he said, had also shown what an essential strategic asset Air Malta was to the island, not only economically but also in terms of security.

He said Malta did not have any military planes which could help evacuate people in a time of crisis like the one which unfolded, but Air Malta had stepped in thanks to the courage of pilots and other employees.

“I don’t think any low-cost airline would have done this,” Dr Muscat said, before insisting that the government wanted to dismantle Air Malta.

Dr Muscat said the government had tried to bind the Labour Party not to disclose any information which emerges from the Air Malta steering committee, even if this was not commercially sensitive data.

“The government is trying to hinder the opposition and myself from doing our job. We will sign no such agreement which makes us accomplices to what the government wants to do and does not allow us to tell people what is happening.”

He said he did not trust the government so he could not bind himself to remain silent in the face of potential mistakes being made.

However, the Labour Party would not pull out of the “farcical” steering committee, because if it could prevent mistakes from being made it would do its best to do so.

Dr Muscat said the government had already made an embarrassing error over a sensitive issue such as arms transportation – where an extra zero made it seem that Malta helped transport €79 million in small arms to Libya instead of €7.9 million.

He said the government had made another mistake recently: raising the fuel prices almost double as much as they should have been raised. He quoted an article on the Labour Party newspaper KullĦadd which gave a “technical explanation” as to why this was the case, based on exchange rates and the fact that almost half of the price of fuel was tax.

In a statement issued later in the day the Finance Ministry said the newspaper had “concocted” the story and reached “incorrect conclusions”, adding that the increases reflected international prices which were affected by the events in Libya.

The Ministry accused the Opposition of twisting facts and being disingenuous with the people.

But during his interview, Dr Muscat said the Finance Ministry had lost all its credibility and he wanted a reply from the Malta Resources Authority and the Prime Minister.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us