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Libya looking forward to having Maltese investors – PM

The Maltese farmer was an integral part of the landscape, and the direct subsidy would not make much difference. However, rural development would make a big difference to Malta – Gonzi.

The Maltese farmer was an integral part of the landscape, and the direct subsidy would not make much difference. However, rural development would make a big difference to Malta – Gonzi.

Libya was looking forward to Maltese investors coming on board to take part in the great opportunities available there, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told Parliament yesterday.

Dr Gonzi was answering a question by opposition spokesman on foreign investment Carmelo Abela, after a ministerial statement on his participation in the European Council meeting last month and talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

He said relations between Malta and Libya were still good, facilitating working for friendly agreement on various issues. There were private-sector projects for enormous development requiring large consortia with workforces ready to work in particular conditions.

Other questions were asked by Opposition Leader Joseph Muscat, George Vella, Leo Brincat and Alfred Sant.

Dr Gonzi said the EU meeting had included a simple amendment on administrative working procedure. The amendment meant there was no need of any elaborate procedure to set up the intended mechanism. The revised procedure could be used in a number of circumstances.

It was true there had been talk of a Eurobond, but the day’s Financial Times had carried the contrary reaction of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In these circumstances the Prime Minister felt he was not in a position to take an official stand. Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had been attending an Ecofin meeting in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, and the Eurobond proposal had not been discussed.

Malta had submitted to the EU’s budgetary monitoring, which in effect was an assessment of all members.

On the Irish banks bailout there was no provision for Malta’s share to figure in the national accounts. Finance Minister Tonio Fenech had explained this even in the Budget debates.

About his meeting with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Dr Gonzi said Malta’s position had remained consistent in that the EU’s agricultural policy must be amended to better help rural development. The Maltese farmer was an integral part of the landscape, and anyway the direct subsidy would not make much difference, but rural development would make a big difference to Malta. He had explained this in detail to Mr Orbán.

The government had no difficulty with the House European and Foreign Affairs Committee inviting ministers of various EU member states to its meetings for information sessions. The government would be able to explain this position at a forthcoming council meeting.

Malta had a very wide consultation method for feedback from civil society and industry. Any issue the government took a position on was handed down to Meusac for its own position and thence to the European and Foreign Affairs Committee. The government’s final position was occasionally adjusted to reflect those discussions.

Dr Gonzi said one had indeed expected more concrete developments from the EU-Africa summit. It was important that there had been no negative attitude, and some progress had been achieved on economic, commercial and technological issues.

It was also true that the African participants had harboured higher expectations than had resulted on the ground. South African President Jacob Zuma’s suggestions had not been out of this world. The meeting had made commitments to work towards the right goals.

Seeing the common positions of EU participants, the African countries had pointed out the need to speak with one voice if further difficulties were to be avoided. But one must remember that Africa was a large continent with its countries facing a variation of different circumstances.

On the upcoming UN conference in Cancun Dr Gonzi said Malta had gone to the Copenhagen conference with rather high expectations generated by the EU, but Copenhagen had not been a failure, even though not the hoped-for success. It had been an important step towards recognising issues to be addressed.

At the Cancun conference it was hoped to take the next step with more concrete positions. The EU had not raised the stakes. It was important that commitments of aid to developing countries to tackle climate-change issues had been honoured.

Malta’s partnership with certain African countries was strong, with a very good base.

On Chinese and Brazilian interest in Africa Dr Gonzi said one must see if any investment from their sides would bring about any quantum leap in African standards of living or simply translate into exploitation of African resources. The EU must work with both countries on these issues.

Senegal’s agreement with Spain was a model to be followed. Spain was not just paying for patrols but also investing in factories and schools in Senegal. Even France was working along this line.

It was in Malta’s best interests that EU member states, individually and collectively, would manage to get out of the financial crisis. Malta’s markets were mostly EU partners and there was no use Malta withdrawing into its own shell, even if the EU had not existed. At least there existed a structure.

Concluding, Dr Gonzi said he too was preoccupied about renewed bank stress tests, but he remained optimistic that other EU member states would succeed to overcome financial difficulties and regain economic strength. Malta’s economy depended on what happened in other parts of the world.

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