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Cuschieri criticises government and his own party over 6th seat

"I expected everyone to push for the sixth seat - which is Malta's right - but I haven't witnessed any effort from anyone" - Joseph Cuschieri.

"I expected everyone to push for the sixth seat - which is Malta's right - but I haven't witnessed any effort from anyone" - Joseph Cuschieri.

Joseph Cuschieri, Labour's MEP-in-waiting, has accused his own party and the government of doing nothing to push for Malta to take up its sixth seat in the European Parliament.

Mr Cuschieri, who turned 42 yesterday, expressed frustration that he still does not know when he will be able to take up the seat, particularly as European countries continue dragging their feet on the extra 18 seats in the EP made possible by the Lisbon Treaty.

"Personally, I feel disillusioned. I never know what to tell people who ask when I will start working as an MEP. Some thought I was already in Brussels as an observer, but I am not involved in any way yet," he told The Sunday Times.

Mr Cuschieri has written to Martin Schultz, leader of the Socialist group in the EP, asking what was being done to speed-up the process, but he never received a reply or an acknowledgement. Nor has he heard from the Prime Minister though Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg acceded to his request to meet.

Did Labour leader Joseph Muscat and Louis Grech, head of Labour's MEP delegation, intervene in the matter on his behalf?

"I don't know. If something has been done, I'm not aware of it. I expected everyone to push for the sixth seat - which is Malta's right - but I haven't witnessed any effort from anyone."

After giving up his seat in Parliament for the Labour leader's co-option in 2008, Mr Cuschieri went on to contest the MEP election.

He clinched Malta's promised sixth seat after earning the highest number of votes after the five MEPs' election last June.

He was initially without a source of income, but was later offered a job within the party executive. However, he is eager to start as an MEP and is seeing the delay as a missed opportunity. He said he was among a number of people misled into believing that the 18 new MEPs would be granted observer status from early 2010, once the Lisbon Treaty was ratified.

As an observer Mr Cuschieri will have the right to attend meetings of committees and political groups without the right to vote or stand for positions within the EP.

He said: "The bureaucracy is leading to a democratic deficit because the 18 MEPs cannot start doing the work they were elected to do. I feel I am being unjustly deprived of my right."

In January, Spain, which holds the six-month rotating presidency, admitted the extra seats would probably not materialise any time soon due to legal and bureaucratic obstacles.

However, Mr Cuschieri is hopeful that Spain, which stands to gain the most because it has been granted four extra MEPs, will do its utmost to fast-track the process.

He thinks that as early as May he could be granted observer status, becoming a full MEP by December. His cautious optimism could stem from the message on his keychain: "With God all things are possible."

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