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.