Berlusconis comment has Erika undertone
Its been one verbal blunder after the other for
Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi since Italys take over
of the EU presidency. His latest: the proposal to give the Maltese prime
minister responsibility for oil tanker safety in the EU.
Harmless as the proposal may sound, it has all the connotations of a
joke with the intention of taking a dig at Malta over doubts cast on
the seriousness of the vast Maltese ship register after the Erika disaster
The Maltese ship register has been in the spotlight ever-since, with
accusations that it serves as a flag of convenience. Malta boasts one
of the biggest ship registers in the world and the Malta Maritime Authority
has, since the Erika disaster, worked to make its regulations more stringent.
Berlusconis proposal was made during a dinner for Brussels-based
journalists in Rome on Saturday. It was reported in the Financial Times
and was also carried by the Reuters news agency.
Berlusconi was reportedly speaking to journalists about his long-term
vision for the EU. He said that the prime ministers of the member states
should be represented on the Commission and each with their own portfolio.
It was at this point that Berlusconi suggested the Maltese prime minister
be responsible for oil tanker safety.
The statement does not seem to have ruffled any feathers at Castille.
After all Italy has been an ardent supporter of Maltas membership
over the years and sources say that such a statement, made during an
informal dinner, could hardly be allowed to damage relations between
the two countries.