Prime Minister Joseph Muscat toasted the values of the European Union and said Malta has the credentials to find solutions to European problems in a mass meeting on occasion of Workers’ Day.
In an unorthodox move for a political party mass meeting, the stage was set right in front of Castille, allowing Muscat to walk right out of Castille and onto the stage to address the thousands of supporters who had gathered there.
Critics, including Nationalist MEP candidate Peter Agius, have warned that this move further blurs the lines between party and government.
However, Muscat, who who has been widely tipped to try and land a high-ranking EU position, focused the large chunk of his speech not on the PL but on the European Union.
“The Labour Party endorses European values,” he said, 15 years after Malta’s EU accession, a move he and the PL had campaigned strongly against back then.
“One cannot just talk about Europe but rather live its values of dialogue, tolerance, respect and the importance of competing as a continent in a globalised world.”
Muscat said his government has shown it can take a leadership role in the continent, despite the island’s small size. To back up this argument, he cited the numerous ad hoc deals that Malta reached with other EU member states that saw asylum seekers land in Malta before being transported to other European countries.
The Prime Minister also took a dig at the Nationalist Party’s anti-foreigner rhetoric, which he warned is at odds with the EU’s principle of freedom of movement.
“It’s useless to praise your predecessors for making Malta an EU member state if you are now trying to scare people about the very advantages of the EU, if you are tying to scare people about foreigners and sow hatred against non-Maltese people,” he said. “They said we’ve stuffed Malta with foreigners, but you know what we’ve really stuffed it with? With work and with wealth!”
“The arguments of the extreme right won’t scare us but will make us stronger, because we know that our heart is in the right place and that Malta’s heart is in the right place.”
“Malta is part of a family as never before, with the difference being that whereas we used to look outwards for opportunities, others are now looking in our direction. This doesn’t scare us though, because we are the party which brought freedom to Malta and we know that freedom doesn’t mean isolation.”
“We were told 20 years ago that we needed to join the EU to bring in more money, but the discussion has now turned to whether we have grown so much that we don’t need as much EU funds as we used to.”
“However, I’d rather live in a rich country that helps other countries than in a poor country that requires acts of charity.”
He also accused Nationalist Party exponents of portraying a false picture of Malta overseas out of a sheer lust for power.
“When speaking to my friends at the European Council, the European Commission and the European Socialists’ Party, I’ve had to explain certain things because some people from the Opposition had tried to paint a false picture of us,” he said. “Their lust for power is greater than their love for the country and they tried to paint a false picture of Malta without a single good word to say about it and the Maltese people.”
“Those who don’t trust their country have obviously discarded the values of the European project, because to make a success of EU membership, you must believe in your country and not claim that Maltese men and women are the worst in Europe.”
He once again urged Labour supporters to vote in force on the 25th May and pitted the European Parliament and local council election as a choice between himself and Opposition leader Adrian Delia.
“The PN tried to deny 130,000 people, particularly those from Gozo and the south of Malta, the vote at the local council election by not listing enough candidates to win a majority in their councils,” he said. “They didn’t want to give you a choice at the local council elections because they hoped that that way you’d stay at home for the MEP election. However, we work for every single one of you, from the elderly to the 16-year-olds who will be voting for the first time this month.”
“On the 25th May, the people will have a choice between those who create jobs and those who create divides, between those who offer hope and those who offer fear, between those who believe in inclusion and those who believe in isolation. It will be a choice between those who work with love and those who work with envy. The choice will be between Joseph Muscat and Adrian Delia. Let’s remain united, let’s be protagonists and not spectators, because we have another date with history coming up.”