Labour MEP John Attard Montalto has said he favours ratification of the new EU Reform Treaty through a referendum, joining National MEP Simon Busuttil as the only MEPs in favour putting the treaty to the popular vote.
“Consulting the people on major issues is one of the most important elements of a democracy. I fully support the Lisbon Treaty, but had it been put to the test of a referendum its foundations would have been stronger,” Attard Montalto told MaltaToday.
Last week Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil told MaltaToday he is not against the ratification of a referendum to ratify the revised treaty, intended to replace the failed European Constitution which was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005.
But Labour MEPs Joseph Muscat and Louis Grech and Nationalist MEP David Casa have excluded a referendum on this issue, preferring the safer option of ratification by parliament.
Attard Montalto also said that during the Berlin Summit in March he was one of the signatories of an open letter to Prime Ministers asking for a referendum which letter in turn served as the basis for an EU wide petition. According to Montalto, if a referendum is held on the new EU Treaty the result will “be a foregone conclusion, as all the major parties have declared that they are in favour of the said treaty.”
Montalto said he welcomed the treaty since it consolidates and strengthens different European institutions whilst distributing and distinguishing areas of responsibilities. “I myself am a strong believer in a more integrated Europe as this is the only way in which we will be able to effectively counterbalance world players.”
Last Sunday, foreign minister Michael Frendo excluded a referendum on the ratification of the treaty, arguing that like any other treaty between states it should be ratified in accordance with normal parliamentary procedures. “I firmly believe that speaking of referenda puts us in a federalist mode and I strongly believe that we have to retain the character of Europe, not just as a Europe of peoples (where numbers count) but, equally, as a Europe of States (where size does not matter). This is in our interest as the smallest state in the European Union.”
The only organisation calling for a referendum in Malta is left-wing NGO Zminijietna.
Calls for a referendum have gained momentum in Great Britain after UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown belatedly signed the Reform Treaty, having missed a ceremony attended by leaders of the 26 other member states. The Tories have challenged Brown to “trust the people” by holding a referendum.
The traditionally pro-European Liberal Democrats are not calling for a referendum on the treaty, but support a referendum on the wider question of UK membership of the EU.
The Trade Union Council, which traditionally supports the Labour Party, is also backing the call for a referendum on the EU treaty.
In Denmark, the government has decided not to hold a referendum arguing that the treaty did not transfer sovereignty from Copenhagen to Brussels. The only EU country set to hold a referendum is Ireland.
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