Hope for the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009
1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?
The conclusions of the European Council in December 2008 were widely welcomed in Malta as having already voted in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, there is hope that a second vote in 2009 in Ireland will result in adoption of the Treaty.
Malta also welcomes the agreement that every EU member state will retain a Commissioner in the European Commission. It also supports the decision taken vis-à-vis caps on CO2 emissions. Malta also committed itself to the decision taken for every EU member state to implement the European Economic Recovery Plan to help boost recovery in each country. In fact, Malta already announced an 80 million Euro package to beautify its capital Valletta, including the building in four years of a new parliament building.
Enthusiasm for the upcoming European Parliament elections
The forthcoming European Parliament elections, the second that Malta will be contesting, are being anticipated with a great deal of enthusiasm. The two main political parties, the Nationalist Party currently in government and in possession of two seats in the European Parliament, and the Labour Party, currently in possession of three seats, have already announced that they will be fielding a broad array of candidates for the five seats available, (will become six after 2009 if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified). A smaller third party, the Alternative Democrats, will also be contesting the June elections.
Possible delay of a new Commission
With regards to the formation of a new European Commission in autumn 2009, Malta is looking forward to continuing to be represented in the next college of Commissioners. Academic debate at the University of Malta about the possibility of a delay in ratification of the Lisbon Treaty led some to ponder that there could be a delay in the formation of a new Commission to the start of 2010.
Not much discussion over a High Representative
Little reference has been made to the appointment of a High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy although occasional reference to the lack of Javier Solana’s current active engagement in the Middle East has taken place.
Malta would like to see the EU enlargement process continue with Croatia allowed to join in the near future. One year after the adoption of the Euro, there is widespread belief that the country made the correct choice given the instability that subsequently emerged in the economic and financial markets. Solidarity between EU member states to address the international economic crisis has been very much welcomed by Malta which is seeking to weather the economic storm by coordinating its policy closely with Brussels.
2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities
Experts in the new US Administration
The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was widely welcomed by the majority of Maltese citizens and Malta’s press. 2009 will see the start of the Obama Presidency in the United States, and the new President comes into the White House with very high expectations and facing a very complex domestic and international agenda. Most in Malta believe that Obama has however already signaled that he comprehends the nature of the task facing him by putting into place a top notch administration of experts. The choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is most telling as it has the potential to equip America with two top leaders at a time when the only superpower will require all the leadership it can muster to cope with the multitude of existing challenges.
Israeli-Palestinian conflict: new opportunities for UN resolutions
The first major priority that Malta would like to see Obama address is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The escalation of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians highlights clearly that the Palestinian faction of Hamas has not been handled well by Israel, Europe or the United States in recent years. 2009 must see a call for an immediate concerted effort by the Middle East Quartet to try and achieve headway towards a permanent settlement of the conflict by creating a viable Palestinian state. The elections due to be held at the start of 2009 in the West Bank and in Israel and the arrival of a new president in the White House will provide the elected leaders with a mandate to proceed with diplomatic efforts aimed at brokering a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians as stipulated in UN Resolutions 242 and 338. It is an opportunity they must seize!
Cessation of Iran’s nuclear programme
A second priority is that of ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear capabilities. The United States and Europe need to continue working closely together to try and persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear programme. To date, Iran shows no signs of changing its determination to possess nuclear technology. Managing relations between the two nuclear states of Pakistan and India will also be a tall order particularly given the very delicate situation after the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
Transition of war efforts: US to call upon Europe
The third priority is that of a smooth commencement of the gradual withdrawal of American combat troops from the Iraqi theatre of operation. The shift in America’s foreign policy strategy will see the simultaneous redeployment of troops to Afghanistan as an escalation of military activities against the Taliban is stepped up. The United States is certain to try and seek engagement of Europe more directly in this conflict.
On 7 December 2008, former American presidential candidate Senator John McCain, together with Senator Joe Lieberman, visited Malta on a two day visit. McCain stopped in Malta immediately after a fact finding visit to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response
Praise for European leadership
Coordination of macroeconomic policies, one year after adoption of the Euro, is largely regarded as a blessing with the benefit of hindsight for some. The leadership shown during the financial crisis by the likes of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has been very welcomed by Malta.
2009 to be met with challenges, rising economic powers and increased globalization
The year 2009 is therefore certain to be a very challenging year, a year that calls for true leadership on a global stage. Twenty years since the end of the Cold War, the post-Cold War contours are becoming more and more clear as the rise of China, India and other powers becomes more obvious and the relative decline of America more apparent. Turbulence in the economic sector and chaos in the political sector are signs of a changing world order where the west is surrendering centuries of economic and political hegemony. 2009 will witness a further ushering in of a globalization process where weakened nation states and international organizations are seeking to find their place in the emerging multipolar system by addressing the multitude of challenges they are facing.
Continuation of reform
In the transitory times we are experiencing, it is clear that the EU must continue with its process of reform aimed at making the EU more competitive. Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty will result in making the EU more coherent and allow it to play a more active role on the international stage.