Luigi Di Maio’s threat

US President Donald Trump, over breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, unleashed a blistering criticism of Angela Merkel’s government for being too supportive of Russia’s natural gas pipeline, which provides natural gas to various European states. Germany is too dependent on Russian natural gas, said Donald Trump. Is it appropriate for Angela Merkel’s Germany to do away with energy sovereignty and security in this manner? Being too dependent on Putin’s Russia is not on, he suggested.

Malta also may have its energy sovereignty and security hanging by a string.

Only last month we were reminded by Italian Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi di Maio that Malta’s electricity interconnector supply is plugged in at Ragusa on the Sicilian mainland. The comment was made in the context of the savage debate that developed over the rescue operations involving drowning immigrants picked up from the Mediterranean Sea by NGO operated sea vessels.

The Cinque Stelle politician considered it appropriate to use the Ragusa plug-in for political leverage in the same manner that Vladimir Putin makes use of his Russian gas supply, in relation not just to Angela Merkel’s Germany, but to most of the European mainland.

The fact that Malta is at times too dependent on the Ragusa electricity supply makes matters worse. We have undoubtedly lost count over the last months regarding the number of times we have been subjected to an electricity black-out in Malta: the standard explanation being that there was some technical hitch on either side of the Sicilian Channel which was being taken care of.

Malta will shortly have another Sicilian plug-in, this time a gas pipeline most probably at Gela.

Like the electricity interconnector plugged in at Ragusa the gas-pipeline plugged in at Gela will be another commercial undertaking. Malta will be paying for its gas, just as much as it is paying for its electricity.

Luigi Di Maio’s thinly veiled threat was obviously that the existing electricity plug-in at Ragusa was there at the Italian government’s pleasure which could reverse any commitment entered into so far if the Maltese government persists in irritating it.

It is not known whether there was any follow-up to Di Maio’s declaration, accept that the Maltese government closed all ports to NGO-operated vessels and that criminal proceedings were initiated against the MV Lifeline captain on flimsy sea-vessel registration charges.

This is unfortunately in-line with the Di Maio/Salvini philosophy that good Samaritans have to be treated suspiciously.

At the time of writing, another sea vessel with 450 migrants on board is sailing through Malta’s search and rescue area towards Sicily with Matteo Salvini, Minister for the Interior, insisting that Italy’s ports are closed for such vessels.

What next?

Potentially, as a result of the closure of Maltese and Italian ports, this is another developing tragedy. Di Maio’s veiled threat, maybe, has been taken seriously by the Maltese government.

Such incidents send one clear message: the foundations of solidarity as a value have heavily eroded. It has been transformed into a slogan. Solidarity is one of the basic values of the European Union – it is not limited to the EU’s border states. Successive Maltese governments have tried to nudge other EU member states to shoulder this collective responsibility which is currently shouldered disproportionately by the border states. The response from nine members states when the MV Lifeline debacle came to the fore was encouraging, but it is certainly not enough.

Faced with racist and xenophobic overreactions, opting for solidarity is not an easy choice. It would be certainly helpful if more EU states put solidarity into practice. The problem is that not all of them are convinced that this is the only ethical way forward.

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday – 15 July 2018

Linking energy and democracy

The Times Logo
Saturday, June 18, 2011 ,

Carmel Cacopardo


Last weekend, Italian voters said no to nuclear energy for the second time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago.

Italy is not alone in refusing to handle nuclear energy. The Fukushima incidents have driven home the point that, even in a country that is very strict on safety standards, nuclear energy is not safe. Fukushima has proven that no amount of safeguards can render nuclear energy 100 per cent safe. Though accidents are bound to happen irrespective of the technology used, the risks associated with nuclear technology are such that they can easily wipe out life from the affected area in a very short time.

Last weekend’s no has a particular significance for Malta as this means an end to plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Palma di Montechiaro on Sicily’s southern coast, less than 100 kilometres from the Maltese islands.

Germany’s Christian Democrat/Liberal coalition government, faced with the resounding victory of the Greens in the Länd of Baden-Württemberg, has made a policy U-turn. As a direct effect of the Greens-led opposition to Germany’s nuclear programme, Germany will be nuclear-energy free as from 2022, by which date all existing nuclear power installations will be phased out. In doing so, the Merkel government has, once and for all, accepted the Green-Red coalition agreement on a complete nuclear phaseout.

Even Switzerland is planning not to make use of its existing nuclear plants beyond their scheduled projected life. The Swiss government will be submitting to Parliament a proposal not to replace existing nuclear plants. The process is scheduled to commence in 2019 and will conclude with the closure of the last Swiss nuclear reactor in 2034.

After the Tunisian revolution, Abdelkader Zitouni, the leader of Tunisie Verte, the Tunisian Green party, has called on Tunisia’s transitional government to repudiate the Franco-Tunisian agreement for the provision of nuclear technology by France. Hopefully, the same will happen when the Administration of Libya is back to normal.

There are other Mediterranean neighbours that are interested in the construction of nuclear plants. Libya and Tunisia were joined by Algeria, Morocco and Egypt in reacting positively to Nicolas Sarkozy, the peripatetic nuclear salesman during the past four years.

Malta could do without nuclear energy installations on its doorstep. Italy’s decision and the policy being advocated by Mr Zitouni are a welcome start. It would be wishful thinking to imagine Foreign Minister Tonio Borg taking the initiative in campaigning for a Mediterranean free of nuclear energy even though this is in Malta’s interest.

It is a very healthy sign that Malta’s neighbours together with Germany and Switzerland are repudiating the use of nuclear energy. Their no to nuclear energy is simultaneously a yes to renewable energy. This will necessarily lead to more efforts, research and investment in renewable energy generation as it is the only reasonable way to make up for the shortfall between energy supply and demand.

A case in point is the Desertec project, which is still in its infancy. The Desertec initiative is based on the basic fact that six hours of solar energy incident on the world’s deserts exceeds the amount of energy used all over the globe in one whole year. Given that more than 90 per cent of the world’s population lives within 3,000 kilometres of a desert, the Desertec initiative considers that most of the world’s energy needs can be economically met through tapping the solar energy that can be captured from the surface of the deserts.

The technology is available and has been extensively tested in the Mojave Desert, California, in Alvarado (Badajoz), Spain and in the Negev Desert in Israel where new plants generating solar energy on a large scale have been in operation for some time. The Desertec project envisages that Europe’s energy needs can be met through tapping the solar energy incident on the Sahara desert. The problems that have to be surmounted are of a technical and of a geopolitical nature.

On the technical front, solutions are being developed to address more efficient storage and the efficient transmission of the electricity generated.

The Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt and, hopefully, the successful conclusion of the Libyan revolution will address the other major concern: that of energy security. The movement towards democracy in North Africa can contribute towards the early success of the Desertec project in tapping solar energy in the Sahara desert for use in both Northern Africa and in Europe.

While Malta stands to gain economically and environmentally through the realisation of such a project, I have yet to hear the government’s enthusiasm and commitment even if the project is still in its initial stages.

Malta is committed in favour of the pro-democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Benghazi. Being surrounded by democratic neighbours is a definitely positive geopolitical development. If properly nurtured, this would enhance Malta’s economic development, energy security and environmental protection concerns.

World Environment Day Message – Messaġġ għal Jum l-Ambjent

On the occasion of World Environment Day, commemorated annually on the 5 June, Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government has on behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika The Green Party in Malta  issued the following message :

 During the past twelve months the environment has topped the citizen agenda many times. Air Quality, energy security and flawed tendering processes, land use planning which leaves much to be desired, depleted water resources, excessive and uncontrolled noise and congested roads due to overdue public transport reform, issues relative to biodiversity loss,  have been some of the topics on which AD has repeatedly spoken throughout the past twelve months.  

Government continuously speaks in favour of environmental measures but then its actions do not always correspond to its statements. It is not the monies spent which indicate the level of environmental commitment but the impacts and the positive results attained in addressing the most pressing environmental problems. 

Whilst the “black dust” saga is still officially unresolved it is known that research carried out at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Malta as far back as the  year 2000 had already indicated that the Marsa Power Station was the possible source of this black dust. Not indentifying a solution to this problem in 10 years is a clear indication of the “green credentials” which this government  speaks about but does not manifest in its actions.   

On a positive note AD has noted the statement made over the weekend by new Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Environment, Dr Mario De Marco, on the need to be very cautious in tackling the proposed Hondoq ir-Rummien project. “Our environment is too small to afford to suffer any more mistakes than we have already committed in the past, sometimes even in the name of tourism and progress”  stated Dr De Marco (Sunday Times of Malta: Sunday 30 May 2010). Whilst AD endorses Dr De Marco’s statement, it invites government to realise that these mistakes have been committed by public authorities made up of appointees whose only credentials were their political allegiances. AD looks forward  to the day when decisions are taken by competent authorities and not by politicians in disguise or by proxy.  MEPA reform currently in hand unfortunately does not point in this direction.

In view of all this AD considers that it is time to stand up and be counted. We need to be ambassadors of a radically different future. This can be achieved if more resources are allocated to establish an administrative capacity for dealing with environmental issues as well as ensuring that a consensual environmental policy is developed for these islands.  AD as always is available to give its contribution.

AD reiterates that the environment is a political issue and the election of AD in local, national and European elections will ensure that it is given the priority it deserves through a vision of sustainable development.

Fl-okkażjoni tal-Jum Dinji tal-Ambjent imfakkar kull sena nhar il-5 ta’ Ġunju,  Carmel Cacopardo kelliemi ta’ Alternattika Demokratika dwar l-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli  u l-Gvern Lokali ħareġ dan il-messaġġ  :

Matul dawn l-aħħar tnax-il xahar l-ambjent kien fuq quddiem nett fl-aġenda taċ-ċittadin Malti. Il-kwalita’ tal-arja, is-sigurta’ tal-enerġija u s-sejħiet għall-offerti b’elf difett, l-ippjanar dwar l-użu tal-art li ma jindirizzax dak mistenni min-nies, ir-riżorsi tal-ilma mhux imħarsa u dejjem jonqsu, l-istorbju eċċessiv u mhux kontrollat, it-toroq mimlija traffiku minħabba r-riforma tat-trasport pubbliku li dejjem ġejja u qatt ma tasal, telfin tal-biodiversita`: dawn kienu wħud mis-suġġetti li Alternattiva repetutament tkellmet dwarhom matul is-sena li għaddiet.  

Il-Gvern kontinwament jitkellem favur il-ħarsien ambjentali, imma mbagħad dak li jagħmel mhux dejjem jikkorrispondi ma’ dak li jiddikjara. Il-flejjes minfuqa ma jindikawx il-kredenzjali ambjentali tal-Gvern imma l-impatti tagħom u r-riżultati pożittivi li jinkisbu minnhom juru kredibilta.  

Il-każ tat-“trab iswed” għadu uffiċjalment ma issolviex. Iżda hu magħruf li riċerka li saret fid-Dipartiment tal-Kimika fl-Universita’ ta Malta fis-sena 2000 kienet diġa indika li l-Power Station tal-Marsa kienet probabilment il-kawża tiegħu. Meta wara għaxar snin għada mhix identifikajt l-oriġini u s-soluzzjoni għal din il-problema huwa indikazzjoni ċara ta’ kemm dan il-Gvern jitkellem biss favur il-ħarsien ambjentali, mingħajr ebda azzjoni pożittiva favur dan il-għan!….. anzi.

Fuq nota pożittiva Alternattiva Demokratika tinnota l–istqarrija fi tmiem il-ġimgħa mis-Segretarju Parlamentari l-ġdid responsabbli għall-Ambjent, Dr Mario De Marco, dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ attenzjoni kbira fuq kif jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet dwar il-proġett propost għal Ħondoq ir-Rummien. “L-ambjent tagħna hu żgħir wisq biex nistgħu nitgħabbew b’iktar żbalji bħal dawk li kkommettejna fil-passat, xi kultant anke’ f’isem it-turiżmu u l-progress” qal Dr De Marco (Sunday Times of Malta: 30 ta’ Mejju 2010). Filwaqt li Alternattiva Demokratika taqbel ma’ din id-dikjarazzjoni ta’ Dr De Marco, tistieden lill-Gvern biex jifhem li dawn l-iżbalji seħħew minn awtoritiajiet pubbliċi magħmula minn persuni li l-uniċi kredenzjali tagħhom kienu l-fehmiet politiċi. Alternattiva Demokratika taspira li jasal dak il-jum fejn dawn id-deċiżjonijiet ma jibqgħux jittieħdu mill-politiċi minn wara l-kwinti jew bil-ġbid tal-ispag. Sfortunatament ir-riforma tal-MEPA dan kollu tinjorah.     

Fid-dawl ta’ dan, Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li wasal iż-żmien li kulħadd isemma’ leħnu. Hemm ħtieġa li nkunu ambaxxaturi ta’ futur radikalment differenti mill-present li qed ngħixu fih. Dan jista’ jseħħ bl-allokazzjoni ta’ aktar riżorsi biex tinbena l-kapaċita amminsutrattiva u teknika meħtieġa għall-oqsma kollha ambjentali kif ukoll biex jiġi assigurat illi tkun żviluppata politika ambjentali konsenswali. Alternattiva Demokratika bħal dejjem hi lesta u disposta biex tagħti sehemha.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li l-ambjent hu materja ta’ politika u li l-elezzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika f’-elezzjonijiet lokali, nazzjonali jew Ewropej tkun l-assigurazzjini li l-ambjent jingħata prijorita’ li jixraqlu f’viżjoni ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli.