3 APRIL 2002
By Kurt Sansone
A German member of parliament described Malta as an important stone in the European Union mosaic because of its understanding of the North African mentality, which it could use to influence the Euro-Med. Process.
Social Democrat Guenter Gloser, MP since 1994, speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times while on a brief visit said that most northern Europeans identify more with the problems and issues pertaining to Eastern Europe rather than the issues arising from the Mediterranean basin.
He admitted that in Germany the Mediterranean is hardly debated with issues stemming from the east, such as security and free movement of workers, hitting headlines more often.
Pinpointing Luxembourg as an example, Mr Gloser said that despite its small size Luxembourgs Prime Minister Junker has the personality and status to influence certain aspects of the political debate in the EU. "Malta could bring an understanding of a different mentality into the EU," Mr Gloser remarked.
Mr Gloser, who is a member of the German parliamentary friendship group with the Maghreb countries, added that the instability in the Mediterranean basin starting off with the conflict in the Middle East and ending with the conflict in Algeria does little to help Europeans identify with the region.
In this context Mr Gloser sees Malta as an important influence in the European debate. He explained that the EU is trying to establish greater co-operation with North African countries to promote stability and prosperity, which will eventually benefit both the Arab countries and Europe.
However, the social democrat MP expressed his disappointment that the EU is not doing enough and that the political drive to fuel such a process must increase.
"The first steps taken are very important and the financial support is good but an increased political drive is required," Mr Gloser said.
The German MP also dwelt on the importance of increased co-operation between the North African countries themselves in areas such as tourism, road infrastructure and water and energy production. "Increased co-operation would ensure the Maghreb states have a stronger negotiating position," Mr Gloser added.
Mr Gloser stressed the need for the EU to speak with one voice in foreign policy related matters when asked to comment on the situation in the Middle East and the inability of the EU to act as a peace broker.
"If the EU speaks in one voice it will have much more political weight to be able to play an active role in finding solutions for peace to prevail," Mr Gloser said adding that the EU and the United States could play different roles that could be complimentary.
Mr Gloser who yesterday evening delivered a speech on Europes responsibility for the Mediterranean region in Valletta, also met representatives of the Labour Party during which the partnership concept was explained.
While saying that the MLP was not anti-European, Mr Gloser described the partys stand as one step away from EU membership. "I can understand the difficulties raised by the Labour Party on a number of issues but I personally believe that membership would give Malta the opportunity to have a bigger influence in European affairs than a free-trade union would," Mr Gloser explained.
The Social Democrat MP stressed the importance for the accession process to be transparent making it possible for people to understand the implications of membership. "All the problems must be exposed and measures how to solve them, either internally or with the help of the EU, have to be identified," Mr Gloser concluded.