25 June 2003

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EU ratification ­ the PM wants a stronger hand

- Labour won’t let him have it

By Matthew Vella
"This bill we have in front of us is introducing… the way we shall be proceeding in our obligations laid out in the Accession Treaty which are…why not use the word?… dictatorial."
These are Alfred Sant’s strong words, delivered at the start of this week’s parliamentary session on the bill for the ratification of the EU Accession Treaty. The leader of the Opposition does not want Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, by decree of the bill currently in discussion, to be given the power to harmonise Maltese law with the EU’s without parliamentary consultation for a period of 12 months after accession.
The bill for the ratification of the EU Accession Treaty is expected to give Malta the parliamentary go-ahead to endorse EU law and EU rights and obligations, and harmonise domestic law with the EU. The bill also includes an amendment to article 65 of the Constitution to ensure conformity of domestic law with EU law.
Sant said in Parliament that the bill goes "beyond the strongest of European federalist currents", and the MLP is opposing the clause for "obvious reasons."
Dr Sant told The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday "The Parliament is there to discuss laws, make and remove them. No member of the executive should have the right to do this without parliamentary consultation. Of course, this may happen in emergency situations, such as war.
"Anything else, however, involves government changing laws only through parliament. This clause involves such an arbitrary procedure that I called it ‘dictatorial’. We cannot have Parliament bypassed in this manner," he told this newspaper yesterday.
Whilst discussion is still in progress in Parliament, Sant will be discussing the amendments Labour is proposing in the preliminary committee stage, but has declared the party’s intention to take the matter to the Constitutional and European Court if the proposed amendments went unheeded.
Dr Jason Azzopardi, Nationalist MP ­ "The Opposition is creating a storm in a teacup"
"There are two points to keep in mind here. The first is that this power will only be in force for 12 months. The second is that this power will be used to address those technical points in which we could find incongruency between Maltese and EU law. In fact government is not asking for powers such as tax imposition or the creation of new criminal offences, but for example to change grammatical and typographical errors in laws, and address discrepancies between laws. This is the spirit of the law, and it will only be for 12 months. We must remember that once a directive is issued from the EU, it is directly enforceable in Member States."

Dr Anna Mallia ­ "You would think we are in Louis XIV’s times…"
"Whereas before we had the Courts, Parliament and Government overseeing each entity’s actions, if this bill is passed, we shall have a Court and Parliament without power, and a Prime Minister passing laws from Brussels, where no-one is watching anyone, whilst the EU watches everybody. Now it’s up to our MPs to seriously defend democracy in our country."

The European Union bill at a glance
Article 3.1 - From 1 May 2004, the Accession Treaty and any future treaties adopted by the EU shall be binding on Malta and part of domestic law.
Article 3.2 - From 1 May 2004, any law which is incompatible with Malta’s obligations under the Treaty will be without effect and unenforceable.
Article 4.1 - All rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions created by or under the Treaty will be given legal effect without further enactment, and shall be recognised and available in Law, and be enforced, allowed and followed accordingly.
Article 4.2 - To give effect to the provisions of Article 3 and 4.4 the Prime Minister or any designated Minister or Authority may by order, (a) implement any rights and obligations to be implemented by virtue of the Treaty to be exercised or (b) deal with those rights and obligations created by the Treaty, by giving directions or to legislate by means of orders, rules, regulations or other subordinate instrument.
Article 4.4 - The powers conferred by this article shall not include power to make to make any provision taking effect from a date earlier than May 1, 2004 or to create any new criminal offence punishable with imprisonment for more than two years or with a fine of more than Lm10,000 or Lm100 a day.
Article 8.1 - The Prime Minister within 12 months after May 1, 2004, may make amendments to any existing law as may appear necessary for bringing that law into conformity with EU law.


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Editor: Saviour Balzan
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