Thursday, July 07, 2005

Leave it to the élites

The Maltese parliament has unanimously ratified the EU Constitutional, becoming the twelfth member state to do so, following Cyprus into the fold. All 35 government (Nationalist) members and all 30 opposition (Labour) members voted in favour of a motion by prime minister Lawrence Gonzi authorising the Maltese government to ratify the treaty.

Only three MPs spoke in the debate leading up to the ratification: foreign minister Michael Frendo, opposition leader Alfred Sant and prime minister Gonzi. Frendo said that it was important for the treaty's ratification process to continue until all 25 member states had their say, to enable the EU to draw its conclusions at the end of the process. "After all, each country has to decide in full sovereignty, and should not be influenced by decisions taken by other member states," Frendo insisted.

Sant said his Labour Party, unlike the Nationalist Party, had carried out a thorough internal debate on the implications of the EU Constitutional treaty and had decided to vote for ratification, even though it had opposed Malta's entry. "It is time to close the debate on the European Union so that Malta can move ahead," he added.

Gonzi welcomed the unanimity. "This vote is a proud and historic moment for Malta, which brings to an end decades of division on this issue between the two major parties," he said. "The Constitutional treaty is the consolidation of 50 years of progress and development of the European Union, and this is why it deserves to be ratified."

There we are: see what happens when the political élites speak. So much cleaner than having a messy referendum, and you do get the right result at the end of it. Now why didn't Chirac think of that?

Postscript: In Brussels, there was, of course, great cheer. Applauding the move, the EU commission celebrated the occasion by launching infringement proceedings against Malta for failing to implement the "denied boarding" directive.