Malta | Small State, Huge Responsibility

Article published on May 16, 2009
Article published on May 16, 2009
The smallest state in the European Union has five seats in the European Parliament. Since March 2003, after a successful referendum – the Maltese voted 53:47 for the EU membership. The referendum was initialized by the government and denied by the oppositional labour party.
But the leading National party couldn’t benefit from their actions: In 2004, the Government just won two seats, the oppositional labour party which was against the Maltese joining to the EU, achieved the other three seats.

Malta between skepticism and optimism

Is it a kind of European skepticism or a domestically Maltese phenomenon? Well, observers stated that the voters possibly expressed their discontentment with the leading National Party. In 2004, there was a special atmosphere at the election for the Maltese. But what could be expected for the European Election on the first weekend in June? The parties will fight for the voter’s voice to secure their influence in the European Parliament. Malta has the least number of seats in the EU and would profit by the new Lisbon treaty. But, because of Ireland’s “No”, their hopes on one more seat have dropped.

Questionable attitude towards refugees

But that’s just paper waste compared to the problems Malta has with immigrants by the sea and their way dealing with them. Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, has expressed his resentment about the situation of the refugees in March 2009. “The Maltese attitude towards the immigrants is racist and has to change immediately.” Since 2008, more than 2700 refugees entered Malta by sea and were housed in refugee camps with the worst reputation in the whole European Union. In January 2009, the United Nations (UN) has stated the conditions as “alarmingly”.

A glimpse of hope

But there are also good news, even in relation to the worldwide still underestimated situation for refugees at the European borders. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year old lawyer, received in 2007 the most prestigious United Nations refugee award for her “tireless efforts” to lobby and advocate for refugees. Just two layers and two case workers try to help the refugees in their mostly unpromising situation. Camilleri has also helped to set up a study unit for law students at the University of Malta. There, the students could take cases and also get in contact with refugees and asylum seekers while helping them with their skilled knowledge.

What next Malta?

Good news indeed, but the situation in 2009 is still precarious. Malta has won a lot with their “Yes” to join the European Union in 2003: political influence in Europe and financial support by the Union. But they also have commitments towards the other members of the EU and a high responsibility as the new border in the south of the European Union. Malta will be in the focus in the next couple of years, especially with their handling of the refugee situation. Whoever will gain the majority of seats, he has the duty to act responsible thoughtful. Maybe the Maltese people are out for another surprise at this year’s European Election - and will support neither the National Party nor the Labour Party. The observers couldn’t tell.

Image is preserved under a Creative-Commons-Licence (marfis75/flickr).