I was never against the European Union, Dr Sant tells France 24
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MEP Alfred Sant told France 24 news service, that during the last ten years those sectors where the Maltese economy has really boomed, especially the financial services, tourism and igaming did this irrespective of most European Union policies.
Dr. Sant, interviewed by the French TV Station at Marsaxlokk Bay, said that whether we are in or out of the EU these important sectors would probably have boomed.
When the interviewer reminded Dr. Sant that she remembered him being sceptical about the EU and that now he is a Europarliamentarian, Dr. Sant said he always favoured the best relationship for Malta with the EU, keeping in mind that we have special characteristics as an island state.
"I was never against the European Union…we always said that it was a very positive development to have a union of European nations though we said that the best relationship for Malta would be a special relationship which would take into consideration the fact that we are a small island (state) . We have been in the European Union now for about ten years or … a bit more. If you ask the majority of local experts now and journalists they would tell you that we have done very very well. I am a bit sceptic about that…the growth rates of the last ten years… have been less than the economic growth rates we used to have before that."
On the other hand, Dr. Sant said, European Union membership has been positive for Malta with regard to environmental protection. A number of changes in environmental laws were pushed through in line with European Union regulations. "Now one would argue that we could have done that ourselves but …" Dr. Sant told France 24, who quizzed him on various subjects related to Malta's role within the European Union.
Asked for his opinion on immigration, Dr. Sant said that not all EU members agree on solutions to overcome this crisis. "We have problems because countries tackle it from the national interest and they are divided. Europeans are now turning to Turkey which has 3 million refugees from Syria. So they have to discuss to see what can be done for Turkey to keep those refugees wait, until eventually the Syrian problem is resolved, and they would want to go back. But that's not a plan and not a solution," emphasised the Maltese MEP.
Asked for his views for the EU's contribution to education in Malta, Dr. Sant said that its positive effects were mainly focused on tertiary education. "It's been contributing to programmes at university and post university level, in part (at student) exchange level which is very good. But it didn't have any impact at the secondary and primary levels which are mostly under national control. I think we need to invest more there."
Dr. Sant also touched on the fishing industry in Malta which has been adversely hit by EU rules which apply alike to all EU member states, irrespective of their characteristics.
"Marsaxlokk is the most traditional village in Malta. Some of the restaurants you see over there are owned by fishing families. Over the years their business has gone down as far as fishing is concerned. They had to accept Europe's regulations regarding catches and they say that they are not earning as much as they used to do in the past," Dr Sant told France 24.