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Update 2: Malta fell into Italy's trap - Joseph Muscat

(Adds PN's reaction)

The Maltese government gave in yesterday and fell into Italy's trap when it brought over to Malta 66 migrants who had been saved by the Armed Forces of Malta close to Lampedusa, Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat said.

Speaking this evening during the party's May Day celebrations, Dr Muscat said he believed this was ample proof that a serious plan was needed in this area, rather than management by crisis.

The party's action plan was spot on and needed badly. The national interest had to be considered first and foremost.

He said that EU Socialist leader Martin Schulz had written to him guaranteeing support for Malta - a country with a unique problem of illegal migration. Mr Schulz said that Malta could not wait for the EU anymore and needed to be treated as a special case since the issue has become too sensitive and urgent.

In a reply to Dr Muscat's speech, the Nationalist Party said that although the Labour leader called for drastic action on illegal migration, when it came to voting on motions which directly affected Malta in Brussels, the Labour MEPs abstained or did not vote.

The Labour leader also tackled the financial crisis, saying this was created by conservative governments that believed money came first and people second.

Even though Malta had not been affected initially, the Prime Minister had created uncertainty by introducing higher utility rates, and bringing on an economic crisis with his own hands.

The government, he said, could not decide whether it created 7,000 or 2,000 jobs, but unemployment grew by 15 percent, with 1,000 more people registering for work than last year.

The Labour leader accused Dr Gonzi of reducing conditions of work and said the state needed to help the economic situation by reducing taxes and creating more investment.

He said there was a severe problem of deficit in the country, coupled with a lack of investment, which he said dropped by 40 per cent since last year.

Mentioning a list of companies which had decided to reduce their workforce even after promises by Dr Gonzi that this would not be the case, Dr Muscat said that workers needed to give the government a sign.

“If you stay home the person you will please most is Dr Gonzi,” he said, referring to the forthcoming EP election.

The PN said later that the Labour Party did not know the difference between job creation and an increase in jobs and mixed the two together.

He also ignored the fact that foreign investment last year amounted to €624 million.

Dr Muscat led a demonstration from the Palace in Valletta to Freedom Square, from where he addressed the gathering.

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