Since the sixties the Nationalist Party recognized the unique opportunities offered by European integration and took the first steps that eventually led to a full status EU membership for Malta on 1 May 1994.
Within a few months from Malta’s independence on the 21st September 1964, the Nationalist Government effectively placed Malta among other sovereign nations by joining the United Nations and the Council of Europe. At that time Malta required to diversify so as to become much less dependent on Britain as its former colonizer. The first exploratory talks with the European Commission were held in 1968 and by the 1st December 1970 the then Prime Minister George Borg Olivier signed an Association Agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC) with the ultimate objective that Malta integrates with Europe.
When the Malta Labour Party was turned to power in 1971 it took a different political stance versus EEC. The then Prime Minister Dom Mintoff had since 1958 thought up the idea of Malta being ‘Switzerland in the Mediterranean’, which idea was resurrected years after by his successor Alfred Sant. Once in power Mintoff took the road of isolationism and protectionism and quickly moved the country toward nonalignment and a special friendship with such the leftist governments as Libya and Algeria. In that way 20 fruitful years were wasted during which Malta could have worked its way towards EU alliance.
On being voted back into office in 1987 the Nationalist Government headed by Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami resumed its bid for Malta’s EU accession and a formal application to join the EEC was made in July 1990. However negotiations towards EU accession ceased abruptly in October 1996 when the MLP returned in government and immediately froze Malta’s application for full membership. The then Prime Minister Alfred Sant and other high-profile MLP figures knew very well that EU membership was in the best interest of our country. So much so that it mow transpires that internal party discussions involving Alfred Sant himself were held to map out the way forward on the EU. Yet, the MLP preferred to adopt a Jekyll and Hyde form of behaviour. Rather than re-routing Malta towards EU membership the Labour Government maintained the EU freeze throughout its 22 months in power.
The MLP continued exhibiting Euroscepticism even in the opposition benches and abdicated its responsibility by refusing to contribute to EU accession negotiations. It further embarked on a ferocious campaign against EU membership claiming that it would lead to loss of jobs and domination by larger states. On 8 March 2003 Alfred Sant failed to respect the decision taken in a referendum by an absolute majority of 53.6% of Maltese voters in favour of Malta becoming a member of EU. He promised to promptly put the Malta’s EU membership bid on hold again if he would win the general elections held on the 12th of April 2003. These elections were won by the PN polling 51.8% of the valid votes against 47.6% of the MLP
Time has proved the PN right in its foreign policy on EU. Malta has gained hundreds of millions of euros worth of European aid during its four years of full membership in the EU. As of 21st December 2007, Malta has become part of the Schengen area, and as from this year it has joined the Euro zone after reaching all the required qualifying economic criteria. It is quite clear which of the two major political parties in Malta has consistently shown its trust in the capabilities of the Maltese citizens and has managed to gain the respect they deserve among their European counterparts. History is well documented and cannot be changed.
This article appeared in the Times of Malta