5 JUNE 2002
By Kurt Sansone
Labour Party deputy leader George Vella believes that a partnership agreement with the EU is still possible and the blue print was set in 1998 when an agreement was signed between the Labour administration and the EU. Dr Vella reiterated that although the 1998 agreement was based on the association agreement that Malta has had with the EU since 1971 it set the pace for a different type of arrangement.
"I find it hard to understand when they say that the partnership option does not exist because in 1998 we had signed a particular agreement with the EU," Dr Vella told the The Malta Financial and Business Times.
When asked to react to comments made by EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy over the weekend about the benefits of EU membership as opposed to a partnership option Dr Vella agreed that membership is a fuller relationship.
"We know that there are more advantages in membership but there are also more disadvantages than a partnership option.
The Labour Partys reasoning is bottom up. We have analysed the different sectors that make up Maltese society and as things stand EU membership will mean more disadvantages."
Dr Vella knows that through membership Malta will have access to funds, which will not be available otherwise. "But even here the tone has changed," he said, "the amount of funds that have been bandied around from time to time are unrealistic and instead of the money flowing to Malta we are now being promised that we will not be net contributors for the first few years."
Dr Vella would neither be winced by the EU Trade Commissioners argument that EU membership is Maltas best protection in the face of globalisation. "Globalisation has become a buzz word. It is already happening and has been so for a number of years. We can see its effects everywhere and yet Malta is not sinking. The problems we have were created internally because we did not take the correct measures. This country has to decide what future it wants, something Ireland did in the early eighties. It is up to us to decide our future," Dr Vella stressed.
The Labour Party deputy leader said that his party adopted a pragmatic approach. "I can understand Pascal Lamys wholehearted belief in the European Union, he is a commissioner after all. But we have to ask ourselves what best suits this country."
Dr Vella added that Malta needs to create three year plans to strengthen certain sectors such as tourism and financial services, which it can develop independently from EU membership. "There are difficulties, but havent we sailed over difficulties in the past?," Dr Vella asked insisting that, "in the EU we will simply be passengers in a boat driven by somebody else."