Abela fails to give statement to MPs after inconclusive EU summit

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Prime Minister Robert Abela broke with what had become a parliamentary tradition by not giving a statement to parliament upon his return from an EU summit, to the chagrin of the Nationalist Party.

As question time ended in today’s parliamentary sitting, PN whip Robert Cutajar questioned Abela’s absence, but his government counterpart Glenn Bedingfield simply replied that since the summit – which discussed the EU budget for the next seven years – was inconclusive.

PN deputy leader David Agius then said that MPs deserved to receive an explanation from the Prime Minister himself, but his colleague Claudette Buttigieg – as acting speaker – then emphasised that ministers cannot be obliged to give a statement.

The summit was inconclusive as a number of countries are seeking significant cuts to EU programmes, whereas Malta and other net beneficiaries of EU funds are insisting that these should not be cut. The UK’s departure from the EU has led to a shortfall of around €60-75 billion, further complicating matters.

In a joint statement to the press, Cutajar and the PN’s foreign affairs spokesman Carm Mifsud Bonnici condemned Abela’s absence, noting that the subject of the summit was of great interest to the Maltese.

“One cannot understand why the Prime Minister failed to inform Parliament about how negotiations of such importance have progressed so far,” the MPs said.

They noted that according to the proposal made by the European Commission, Malta stood to lose the greatest proportion of EU funds when compared to the 2014-2020 budget, and said that Abela had an obligation to confirm whether the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, held a similar position.

“The opposition hopes that the Labour government is doing all that is possible so that the same amount of funds Malta received in the last financial package remains available to us,” the MPs concluded.