Arnold Cassola | Sunday, 17 May 2009
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Campaigning by continuous confusion

Times do change. Especially for electoral expediency. The PN has assembled a motley crew of candidates who promise to be everything for everyone, but leave the electorate in the lurch when called to decide what their MEPs will really stand for once elected in the European Parliament.
Is hunting in spring back on the cards? What is exactly our immigration policy (and if we don’t want to be an EU pariah state, playing Joseph Muscat’s veto card, are we heading to a confrontation with Libya or are we going to solve the situation through much-vaunted European cooperation)? And what about the environment? Is vague discourse on carbon footprints and electric cars for electoral gimmicks enough, or else we are really walking the environmental talk?
I don’t want to rain on any other party’s parade, but I pride myself that AD has been credible and consistent in the issues currently debated in this campaign, and in its attitude towards Malta’s experience in the European Union. Especially in the environmental field. It is admirable that the other parties have come round to our urgent discourse on this matter and attempt to take a leaf out of our book. Putting at the forefront candidates with an environmental track record convinces us further that our 20-year effort to put environmental protection at the top of the political agenda was a realistic and coherent political choice.
Nevertheless, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this can be seen by the stark contrast between environmental electioneering and a party’s actual track records in the matter. In the PN’s case, as the party in government, one can safely say that its administration is culpable of the worst environmental excesses. Suffice to mention the extension of development zones, especially when considering that Malta and Gozo possess a stock of over 50,000 vacant and unused properties. Apart from being an exercise in devastation of the little countryside left, it is even an unsound economic measure which satisfies the building contractor’s lobby short-term needs, but in the long term depletes resources and creates an uncertain economic bubble that will have later repercussions. So much for job creation!
This exercise was also done in breach of the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA), and one should mention that AD had protested about this with the European Commission and filed a complaint against the government, together with a number of residents. One can only surmise that this contradiction in the PN’s talk and walk results from the PN’s collusion with certain building contractors, as had been once explicitly admitted by the ex-PN secretary general Joe Saliba.
One cannot accept to be considered credible and consistent in the environmental field if one chooses to contest an election with a party that accepts unlimited (and undeclared!) donations from certain contractors who disrespect the environment.
Alternattiva Demokratika has the necessary credibility and consistency on the environmental issue. One can also mention hunting, where we have always consistently stated that no derogation is acceptable on spring hunting. Nevertheless, the PN has managed to muddle up this issue too and, through the Bermuda triangle formed by Philip MIfsud, Edward Demicoli and Simon Busuttil, brought us back to square one on the matter. The hunting issue is still shrouded in mystery, and the environmentalists’ victory at banning spring hunting is now threatened once again by another PN candidate, Alex Perici Calascione, who is one of the government’s lawyers in the case being heard by the European Court of Justice.
The PN keeps on promising hunters that it is possible to obtain this derogation: something that is blatantly untrue. And here’s the rub: greenwash on one side, and posturing as the new environmentalists, while at the same time fighting for hunting in Spring. So whose side is the PN on? And who does it stand for? AD is credible and consistent on this matter too and continues declaring that it is against this derogation, which will most probably not be granted, notwithstanding the government’s smokescreen and play for time.
Finally, one must also see this matter in a European perspective. The PN’s political grouping in the EP, the EPP-ED, has the worst track record in environmental matters, as witnessed by a Friends of the Earth Study. This party frequently votes for measures that weaken environmental standards.
The EPP, for instance, has voted in favour of excluding large industries from limiting pollution according to European legislation. In the case of pollution from cars and SUVs, the EPP and PN MEPs insisted on exempting the most polluting cars from having to conform to stricter emission standards. The same applies to standards on chemical safety, while with regards to climate change, PN MEPs have voted for lower emission reduction targets, and have rubbished the threat of global warming. With regards to nuclear safety, the PN representatives had no opinion on a nuclear phase-out for Europe despite Malta being sandwiched between Libya and Italy’s planned nuclear reactors.
The list is long, but I am convinced that come June 6, the discerning electorate will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and choose representatives from different political parties, who are consistent in their vision and who will actually deliver on what they promise.
It’s a question of talking the talk or walking the walk. As far as concerns us Greens, we will do the latter. We will remain true to our ideas and proposals and we will deliver.

Arnold Cassola is Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party and MEP candidate


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