In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi at Castille, Professor Buzek said the European Parliament strongly supports the matter of the additional seats, but he pointed out that the changes to the Lisbon Treaty need to be ratified by all the member states before the additional MEPs can take up their seats. Moreover, he said, five member states still need to elect additional MEPs, and the parliament would like to have all 18 MEPs join together.
In an interview published in The Sunday Times of Malta, Prof. Buzek said that the Conference of Presidents would have to take a decision for additional MEPs to be given observer status until the changes to the new treaty are ratified in full.
Malta’s sixth seat is waiting to be filled by Labour MEP Joseph Cuschieri who has been patiently awaiting observer status since being elected as the runner-up to the first five elected MEPs in 2008. Speaking about the Maltese MEPs, Prof. Buzek said they were an active group and were “highly respected”. “My only comment would be, bring us more of the same quality but Maltese women MEPs would also be most welcome,” he said.
This is Prof. Buzek’s first official visit to Malta, but he said he has visited the island on three other occasions.
The EP president also noted that the EU has offered immediate assistance to prepare for the elections in Tunisia, an aid package to address economic and social issues, and to consolidate the rule of law. “Malta is Tunisia’s next door neighbour and we need your advice on what else the EU can and should do.”
Talking about Malta’s important role in the Euro-Mediterranean region, he said that throughout its history, the country has served as an important bridge between north and south. “We rely on your Mediterranean expertise, make your voice heard!” he said.
On the financial and economic crises, Prof. Buzek again observed that Malta was among the last EU member states to enter the recession and among the first to emerge from it in 2009. He said many member states could learn from the country’s economic policies, going on to note that Malta brought down its deficit to 3.8% of GDP last year, and appears well on track to achieve the target of 2.8% at the end of this year.
Prof. Buzek referred to the issue of illegal migration, saying that no member state should be left alone when faced with a challenge. The European Parliament was the first to offer concrete solutions and supported compulsory solidarity for intra-EU burden sharing. He visited a number of African immigrants during his visit.
During his first day Prof Buzek also held talks with President George Abela and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Frendo, who, he recalled, had been the first Maltese to address the European Parliament when Malta still had observer status in 2003.
He also held a meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee for European and Foreign Affairs where he spoke about the role of national parliaments in the EU decision-making process.
During his second day, Prof Buzek met with members of civil society at Dar l-Ewropa in Valletta and also students participating in the Mini European Assembly.