L-abort: x’inhu jiġri madwarna

Diskors minn Carmel Cacopardo, Chairperson, Alternattiva Demokratika
fl-okkażjoni ta’ Jum il-Ħajja, organizzat mill-Malta Unborn Child Movement
Oratorju tal-Kon-Katidral ta’ San Ġwann il-Belt Valletta, Il-Ħadd 4 ta’ Frar 2018

 

Uħud minnkom, wara dak kollu li ilu jingħad, bla dubju qed jistaqsu dwar meta u min ser idaħħal l-abort f’Malta. It-tweġiba għal din il-mistoqsija hi waħda sempliċi ħafna: ħadd. Għax l-abort ilu fostna. Il-fatt li l-liġi Maltija ma tippermettieħx ma hu ta’ l-ebda xkiel għal min jidhirlu li għandu jagħmel għażla ta’ din ix-xorta.

Rapporti annwali mediċi fir-Renju Unit jindikaw li madwar 60 mara Maltija fis-sena jutiliżżaw is-servizzi mediċi tal-Ingilterra u Wales biex jipprokuraw abort. Ma dawn imma, trid iżżid l-aborti minn Maltin li kull sena jsiru fl-Italja (prinċipalment Catania, Ruma u Milan imma ukoll f’lokalitajiet oħra) kif ukoll dawk li jseħħu fil-Ġermanja, l-Olanda, l-Belġju u iktar. Statistika uffiċjali hemm biss għar-Renju Unit, imma tobba Maltin li tkellimt magħhom, bla dubju a bażi prattika tal-professjoni tagħhom fl-ibliet u l-irħula Maltin, jistmaw li ċ-ċifra totali tista’ titla sa bejn 300 u 400 abort fis-sena li nisa Maltin jagħżlu li jagħmlu.

Fl-istatistika jkejlu l-frekwenza tal-abort bħala n-numru ta’ aborti għal kull elf mara li hi of childbearing age, u ċjoe bejn l-eta ta’ 15 u 44 sena. A bażi ta’ dan, ir-rata fl-Unjoni Ewropeja hi ta’ 4.4, filwaqt li fost il-Maltin hi ta’ bejn 3.6 u 4.7, dipendenti fuq jekk fil-kalkolu tagħmilx użu minn numru stmat ta’ 300 abort inkella l-istima massima ta’ 400 abort fis-sena fost il-Maltin.

Jiġifieri fi ftit kliem, l-indikazzjonijiet huma li l-Maltin ifittxu l-abort kważi daqs kull ġens ieħor fl-Ewropa.

Jekk irridu niddiskutu l-abort bis-serjeta għandna l-obbligu li l-ewwel u qabel kollox nippruvaw nidentifikaw u nifhmu l-fatti biex id-dibattitu pubbliku jkun wieħed infurmat u mhux wieħed intenżjonat biss biex ikeskes lil “qaddisin” kontra l-“midinbin”.

F’Alternattiva Demokratika qatt ma appoġġajna l-abort minkejja dak li jgħidu uħud, inkluż uħud fostkom. Imma f’Alternattiva Demokratika ma nagħmlux kruċjati. Nippreferu li l-pajjiż jikkommetti ruħu b’iktar qawwa biex ikunu indirizzati dawk iċ-ċirkustanzi li jwasslu għal abort.

Ir-rispett għall-ħajja, meta jkun ġenwin, jintwera mhux biss waqt it-tqala. Jintwera dejjem, kemm qabel kif ukoll wara t-tqal, kif ukoll f’ċirkustanzi li m’għandhomx x’jaqsmu mat-tqala.

Nirrispettaw il-ħajja ukoll meta nkunu ċari kontra l-vjolenza domestika, meta nkunu kommessi li nħarsu lil dawk li jissograw l-għarqa, maħrubin mill-moħqrija u l-għaks f’pajjiżhom, meta niftħu għajnejna beraħ għal nisa traffikati għas-sess f’pajjiżna, kif ukoll meta nifhmu li d-dinjità ta’ kull bniedem tmur lil hinn mill-kulur, razza jew ġeneru. Imma għal uħud forsi dan hu wisq!

Is-soċjetà tagħna qed tinbidel b’rata mgħaġġla. Hi bidla li tispira ruħha minn pluraliżmu ta’ valuri, valuri li ħafna drabi jikkuntrastaw, xi kultant b’mod sostanzjali.

L-obbligu li nirrispettaw lil xulxin jeħtieġ li jimmanifesta ruħu f’dawn iċ-ċirkustanzi ukoll. Għax x’utilità hemm li ngħidu li għandna rispett lejn il-fehma ta’ ħaddieħor jekk imbagħad fil-konfront ta’ min ma jaqbilx magħna, it-tgħajjir u l-insulti kkuluriti xi kultant huma bla limitu?

Fl-Irlanda bħalissa l-Gvern immexxi mill-partit demokristjan tal-Fine Gael ser jagħti bidu għall-kampanja referendarja favur l-abort, għax fir-realta l-qbil ma’ jew l-opposizzjoni għall-abort tmur lil hinn mill-fehmiet politiċi.

F’Malta ukoll dawk favur l-abort qed jieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet tagħhom u qed isibu lil min jagħtihom s-servizz mixtieq. Sakemm jieqfu l-insulti mhux ser ikun possibli li dawn il-Maltin bħalna jingħataw l-għajnuna li jkollhom bżonn u li jħossu l-ħtieġa għaliha fl-iktar mumenti diffiċli f’ħajjithom, meta jridu jieħdu deċiżjoni iebsa u diffiċli, imma jħossuhom waħedhom, insulentati u mkasbrin minn soċjetà li tfittex il-purità artifiċjali.

Xi darba, forsi, nagħmlu progress. U l-progress ikun reġistrat meta kulħadd ikun konvint li hu stmat, irrispettivament mill-fehmiet tiegħu.

Sfortunatament, imma, jidher li għadna ftit il-bogħod.

Grazzi.

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Encouraging the avoidance of paying tax

The issue as to whether or not  Malta is a tax haven has been brought to the fore once again, as a result of the amendment to the Panama Papers Inquiry Report discussed in the European Parliament earlier this week. The defeated amendment would have seen Malta, Luxembourg, Ireland and the Netherlands labelled by the European Parliament as “tax havens”.

The matter is much more complex. On the one hand it involves tax competition and on the other hand it is a matter of justice in taxation matters.

As has been repeatedly stated, competition on taxation matters is one of the few areas in which small, as well as peripheral, countries in the European Union have a competitive advantage. Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party is not in favour of loosing this competitive advantage through tax harmonisation in the EU. However, it has to be used in a responsible manner.

The rules permitting the refund of a substantial amount of tax paid by foreign-owned companies based in Malta is one of the main reasons for the current spotlight. This substantial tax refund effectively reduces the tax paid by such companies from 35% to five per cent and is obviously considered very attractive by a number of companies. The basic question that requires a clear answer is how many of these companies are letter-box companies, that is companies which do not have any part of their operations on Maltese soil?

It would be reasonable to encourage companies to base part of their operations in Malta and, as a result, make use of tax advantages. But in respect of those companies which have not moved any part of their operations to Malta, making use of beneficial taxation arrangements is unreasonable and unjust. It leads to such companies avoiding paying tax in the countries in which they create their profits and consequently avoiding their social responsibilities on paying taxes in the countries that are providing them with the very facilities which make it possible for them to create their wealth.

In a nutshell, Malta is providing these companies with the legal framework to avoid their taxation responsibilities in the countries in which they operate through payment of a fraction of these taxes to the Maltese Exchequer. They pocket the rest.

Hiding behind the EU unanimity rule on tax issues will not get us anywhere, as Ireland has learnt in the Apple case. At the end of the day, the situation is not just about  taxation: it also involves competition rules and rules regulating state aid, as the legal infrastructure encouraging the avoidance of taxation is, in effect, a mechanism for state aid. The is also an issue of tax justice, as a result of which tax should be paid where the profits are generated.

Tax competition has a role to play as an important tool that small and peripheral countries in the EU have at their disposal. No one should expect these countries, Malta included, to throw away the small advantage they have, but it should be clear that this should be used responsibly and in no way should it buttress the urge of multinationals to circumvent the national taxation system in the country where their profits are generated.

Profits should be taxed where they are actually generated and not elsewhere. The EU needs to end – once and for all – not only tax evasion but also tax avoidance resulting from loopholes in national taxation rules. For this to happen, the EU member states must not only be vigilant, but they must also refrain from encouraging tax avoidance through the creation of more loopholes.

Tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance seriously will mean that taxes are paid where they are due, thereby funding the services and infrastructure that is required in a modern, civilised society. This can only happen if more companies pay their dues.

Tax competition need not be a race to the bottom.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 17 December 2017

Madwar il-mejda aħjar

Iktar kmieni illum flimkien ma uffiċjali oħra ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika iltqajt ma’ Adrian Delia l-Kap tal-PN. Iddiskutejna l-qagħda politika attwali u l-veduti taż-żewġ partiti dwar dak liqiegħed iseħħ bħalissa.

Il-klima politika li qed tiżviluppa fil-pajjiż qed twassal għal ħsara rreparabbli għar-reputazzjoni internazzjonali tal-pajjiż u iktar minn hekk qed ikunu imminati l-istituzzjonijiet tal-pajjiż li diġa huma dgħajfa. Dan ifisser li issa, iktar minn qatt qabel, hu meħtieġ li l-partiti politiċi f’Malta jaħdmu flimkien biex insibu soluzzjonijiet li jkunu effettivi kemm immedjatament kif ukoll fit-tul.

Din kien l-ewwel laqgħa. Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla ser niltaqgħu ma’ Joseph Muscat u l-Partit Laburista.

Nittama li din l-inizjattiva żgħira ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika tkun ta’ kontribut biex iġġib lill-partiti politiċi flimkien madwar il-medja, fejn jistgħu jinstabu s-soluzzjonijiet meħtieġa fl-interess tal-pajjiż.

Tax avoidance: does Malta play a role?

basf-malta

On 30 August, the European Union, through Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, ordered Apple Corporation to pay €13 billion in unpaid taxes to the Irish state.  The EU ruling considered that the special tax treatment of Apple, whose tax bill was substantially reduced, amounted to unlawful state aid.

In November 2014, through Luxleaks, we learnt of tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg and elsewhere, as a result of which billions of euros in tax were being avoided by multinational corporations.

The EU has subsequently launched various investigations into the favourable tax treatment which Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Belgium have granted to various multinationals.

As a contribution to the on-going debate on tax avoidance in the EU, the Green Group in the European Parliament has recently published a study on the tax avoidance strategies adopted by the industrial giant BASF, the largest chemical company in the world.

Founded in 1865, BASF has its headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany, from where it manages a €70.4 billion turnover with production sites in 80 countries.

Malta features in this report together with Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Over the years, BASF has used mismatches in national tax systems in order to avoid paying its taxes. It is estimated that, over a five-year period spanning 2010 to 2014, BASF avoided the payment of close to one billion euros in taxes.

Chapter VIII of the report, published by the Green Group in the European Parliament, deals with Malta. It refers to the existence of a BASF subsidiary in Malta which held €5.07 billion in assets. These assets where transferred to a new German subsidiary, BASF Finance Malta GMBH, which was managed from an office in St Julian’s, thereby creating the eligibility for preferential tax treatment which could amount to as much as a refund of six-sevenths of all tax payable in Malta.

All this is a clearly planned movement of profits through generous loopholes as a way of avoiding most of, if not all, of the taxation which would be due under normal circumstances.

This abuse of the differences in national tax systems needs to be addressed urgently. As rightly stated by Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna at a Luxembourg ECOFIN meeting last September, the way forward lies in coordination at an EU level and not in the harmonisation of the national taxation systems, as some EU member states are insisting.

Tax competition has a role to play as an important tool that small and peripheral countries in the EU have at their disposal. No one should expect these countries to throw away the small advantage they have, but it should be clear that this should be used responsibly and in no way should it buttress the urge of multinationals to circumvent the national taxation system where their profits are generated.

Profits should be taxed where they are actually generated and not elsewhere. The EU needs to end – once and for all – not only tax evasion but also tax avoidance resulting from loopholes in national tax rules. For this to happen, the member states must not only be vigilant, but must also refrain from encouraging tax avoidance through the creation of more loopholes.

Tackling tax evasion and tax avoidance seriously will mean that taxes are paid where they are due, thereby funding the services and infrastructure that is required in a modern, civilised society. This can only happen if more companies pay their dues. Tax competition need not be a race to the bottom.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 4 December 2016

Il-libertà tal-moviment tal-persuni fl-Unjoni Ewropeja u r-Renju Unit

freedom of movement of persons

Waħda mill-affarijiet li ħarġet ċara mis-Summit tal-Unjoni Ewropeja tal-bieraħ hi li l-benefiċċju tal-aċċess għas-suq wiehed mhuwiex mingħajr responsabbiltajiet. Ilha ċara imma hemm għamel ta’ bir-ruħu mod ieħor.

L-aċċess għas-suq wieħed Ewropew iġib miegħu numru ta’ responsabbiltajiet bażiċi. Waħda minn dawn hi l-aċċettazzjoni ta’ dawk li nirreferu għalihom bħala l-erba’ libertaijiet  [the four freedoms] : il-libertà tal-moviment liberu tal-merkanzija, tal-kapital, tas-servizzi u tan-nies.

Ir-Renju Unit irid jillimita l-libertà tal-moviment liberu tan-nies.

Għadhom ma fehmux li r-regoli mhumiex a la carte. Għax dawn huma prinċipji fundamentali li fuqhom hi mibnija l-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Stimi jindikaw li fir-Renju Unit hemm 3.3 miljun ċittadin mis-27 pajjiżi l-oħra membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja li minnhom 2.1 miljun qed jaħdmu.

Min-naħa l-oħra hemm 1.2 miljun ċittadin mir-Renju Unit li qed jgħixu fis-27 pajjiż membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. L-ikbar komunitajiet qegħdin fi Spanja ( 309,000), l-Irlanda ( 255,000), Franza (185,000) u l-Ġermanja ( 103,000). 800,000 huma ħaddiema u d-dipendenti tagħhom fil-waqt li 400,000 huma pensjonanti.

Skond iċ-ċensiment tal-2011 kien hawn 6,652 ċittadin tar-Renju Unit jgħixu f’Malta. Nafu ukoll li madwar 28,000 Malti kellhom dritt tal-vot fir-referendum tar-Renju Unit.

 

 

Chernobyl : x’tgħallimna wara 30 sena?

ostrich

Tletin sena ilu bħal għada s-26 t’April 1986 kien sploda r-reattur nuklejari ta’ Chernobyl. X’tgħallimna?

L-isplużjoni ikkontaminat 40% tat-teritorju Ewropew. Mhux bl-istess mod.

Fi Sqallija, per eżempju, hekk kif sar magħruf x’kien ġara [għax ma kienx magħruf mill-ewwel] in-nies kienu ngħataw il-parir biex jaħslu sewwa l-ħxejjex u l-frott. Dan minħabba li bl-effett tar-rih kien hemm il-biża’ li materjal radjuattiv seta jiddepożita ruħu fuq il-ħxejjex u l–frott.

F’Malta ma niftakarx li kien hawn xi twissija ta’ dik ix-xorta. Kien qiesu ma ġara xejn.

Illum wara tletin sena nistaqsu jekk il-pajjiż huwiex mgħammar biex jinduna jekk inċident nuklejari li jkun seħħ, il-bogħod jew fil-viċin huwiex ta’ theddida għal saħħitna. X’miżuri ittieħdu? Tgħallimna xi ħaġa wara tletin sena?

Fis-snin li ġejjin ser ikollna diversi impjanti nuklejari viċin tagħna: fit-Tunisia, fl-Alġerija u fl-Eġittu b’mod partikolari. Possibilment ukoll fil-Marokk. Jidher li ħlisna mill-periklu wara l-bieb għax il-ftehim bejn il-Libja u Franza dwar impjant nuklejari biex jikkonverti l-ilma baħar f’ilma tajjeb għax-xorb ma laħaqx implimentat. Konna iffurtunati dwar dan kieku ma nafx x’seta inqala’ waqt il-gwerra ċivili li issa ilha ftit għaddejja fil-Libja.

Dwar il-ħtieġa li l-Gvern Malti jqajjem il-kwistjoni mal-Gvern Libjan kienet Alternattiva Demokratika biss li kienet tkellmet għax kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll il-Partit Laburista kienu waqgħu fil-muta.

Kellna biss gazzetta Taljana (Il Sole 24 Ore: artiklu ta’ Federico Rendina intitolat Il Governo rilancia sull’atomo) li kienet qalet li l-Prim Ministru Taljan Silvio Berlusconi kien iddiskuta l-kostruzzjoni ta’ impjant nuklejari f’Malta mal-Prim Ministru Gonzi. Il-Gvern Malti kien ċaħad li qatt saret id-diskussjoni.

Nittama li wara tletin sena tgħallimna xi ħaga. Tgħid?

Malta’s finch-trapping at the European Court of Justice

goldfinches and linnets

 

On May 1, 2013, Roderick Galdes, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Hunting and Trapping announced that a technical loophole had been found “that would allow the Government to present proposals to the European Union to allow bird-trapping in autumn.” The European Commission has not been impressed and the loophole referred to by Roderick Galdes will shortly be examined by the European Court of Justice.

During the negotiations leading to Malta’s accession to the European Union, bird-trapping had been one of the areas referred to in the treaty itself. In fact, the Treaty of Adhesion provided for a transition period at the end of which bird- trapping in Malta was to cease permanently. The cut-off date was 31 December 2008.

This limited concession was subject to a number of conditions relative to the setting-up of a captive bird  breeding programme which was to be introduced by 30 June 2005 as well as to carry out various studies intended to establish the numbers and types of species held and bred in aviaries as well as their mortality rate and their replenishment to sustain the genetic diversity of the captive species.

All this was ignored, notwithstanding the fact that, way back in 2004, the authorities had  detailed advice as to how this was to be implemented.

This is the current state of play: the interpretation of the rules as accepted on the date of Malta’s EU adhesion.

 

Earlier this week, the Commission of the European Union decided to refer Malta to the European Court of Justice because Malta is not committed to end finch- trapping. The following was stated by the Commission in an explanatory press release:

“The case concerns Malta’s decision to allow the live capture (i.e. trapping) of seven species of wild finches as of 2014. In the EU, the capture and keeping of bird species like finches is generally prohibited. However, member states may derogate from the strict protection requirement if there is no other satisfactory solution, and if the derogation is used judiciously, with small numbers and strict supervision. As these conditions have not been met in this case, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice in October 2014, urging Malta to refrain from allowing finch-trapping. Despite this warning, Malta went ahead as planned with the opening of a finch-trapping season in 2014. In response, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Malta in May 2015, urging Malta to end the practice. Malta has replied, contesting the Commission’s analysis. Since Malta has not committed to end finch-trapping, the Commission has therefore decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the EU.”

In a background note the Commission further noted:

“In Europe, many species of wild birds are in decline, and markedly so in some cases. This decline disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment.The EU Directive on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds such as deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds, with a few exceptions. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, especially through the establishment of a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

Article 9 of the directive provides limited scope for derogations from the requirement of strict protection where there is no other satisfactory solution, for instance, in the interests of public health and safety or air safety, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water, and for the protection of flora and fauna. Derogations may also be permitted for the purposes of research and teaching, repopulation, reintroduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes.

Malta was allowed a transitional arrangement in the Accession Treaty to phase out the trapping of finches, taking into account the time required to establish a captive breeding programme. The transitional arrangement expired in 2008.

The case concerns the live capture of seven species: chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, hawfinch, serin and siskin.”

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 September 2015

Il-millimetri li ċċaqlaq Joseph Muscat

pushbacks + Joseph Muscat

It-Times online tal-bieraħ irrappurtat lil Joseph Muscat jgħid hekk:

“Most of what was said today by central European was said in the past by Mediterraneans… We had the luxury of retaining the position we had taken then without even needing to shift just one millimetre.”

Dr Muscat said he was proud to have attended a summit where Malta was not asking for help but offering it. The number of refugees allocated to Malta, a total of 189, was extremely manageable and people could be really welcomed. The decision also gave Malta strength and credibility politically that if it was faced with problem once again there was a blueprint in place and it could ask for assistance.

(Times of Malta 23rd September 2015)

 

Ma nistax ma niftakarx f’Joseph Muscat ieħor li f’Lulju 2013 kien rappurtat jgħid hekk :

“Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has reaffirmed his government’s position not to exclude the controversial pushbacks of migrants at sea, even though he has acknowledged that the practice employed by the Italian government in the past was found to be illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. Muscat today brushed aside criticism from NGOs who took his position on migrant pushbacks to task, saying that his government had a mandate to take a “strong position”.

(Malta Today 6th July 2013)

Nistgħu ngħidu li għamel progress! Mexa ħafna millimetri l-quddiem!

 

 

 

Iċ-ċaħda ma ssolvi xejn: kun trasparenti

 

il giornale 170915

 

Il-gazzetta Taljana Il-Giornale tal-Ħamis 17 ta’ Settembru qabdet ma kelmtejn li qal il-Ministru tal-Intern Malti Carmelo Abela u waslet għal konklużjoni li hemm ftehim sigriet bejn Malta u l-Italja li permezz tiegħu l-Italja iġġorr il-piz tal-immigranti f’dawn l-ibħra u min-naħa l-oħra Malta ser tagħlaq għajnejha għall-esplorazzjoni għaż-żejt mill-Italja f’żoni fejn dan hu ikkontestat.

Il-Gvern Malti ċaħad li hemm dan il-ftehim. Tajjeb li saret din iċ-ċaħda, għax ngħid il-verità jiena ukoll rajtha ftit imġebbda. Għax kieku dan kien minnu kien ikun ġustifikat li l-Gvern jiġi akkużat bi tradiment. Imma ma naħsibx li hu l-każ.

Minkejja dan, iżda, ċ-ċaħda ftit li xejn ser issolvi. Għax hu ovvju li xi tip ta’ ftehim hemm. Anke jekk hu ftehim li hu biss wieħed ibbażat fuq il-ħbiberija.

Kien ikun tajjeb kieku l-Gvern, apparti ċaħda, ippubblika d-dokumentazzjoni li għandu dwar l-arranġamenti li wasal għalihom mal-Gvern Taljan.

Għax ngħiduha kif inhi, kemm Joseph kif ukoll uħud mill-Ministri ta’ madwaru iħobbu jiżolqu biex jevitaw milli jagħtu l-informazzjoni. F’materja sensittiva bħal din, għaldaqstant iċ-ċaħda ftit li xejn ser issolvi.

Is-sejħa li nagħmel lil Gvern hi waħda: poġġi l-karti kollha fuq il-mejda, illum qabel għada. Kun trasparenti.

Reflections from Carthage

Tunisia-Med

 

At the University of Carthage in Tunisia between Thursday and today the international community has been engaging with Tunisian civil society. The Fifth Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy – Decentralisation by Participation exchanged views and experiences with all sectors of Tunisian civil society: young people, women and trade unionists were at the forefront, with very passionate views on the Tunisian roadmap to democracy.

Why has the Arab Spring in Tunisia provided different results from those reaped in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria?

Yahd Ben Anchour, lawyer, former Chairman of the High Commission for the Preservation of the Revolution, and charged with overseeing  constitutional reform in a post Ben Ali Tunisia, emphasised the fact that the roots of this more successful outcome can be traced to a number of policy decisions in the late 1950s. The then Tunisian strongman Habib Bourguiba had championed free access to education, including higher education. He had, moreover, championed gender equality right from the first days of independence.  Tackling these issues made Bourguiba an exception in the Arab world.

From outside Tunisia, Bourguiba’s personality cult, the large scale clientelism over the years as well as the leadership of a one party-state naturally overshadowed his otherwise significant  social achievements, which are considered by many as the essential building blocks of today’s Tunisia civil society.

Even though a number of Tunisian women are still shackled by tradition, the number of them active in public life is impressive. It is this exceptionalism which has given the Arab Spring in Tunisia the edge over neighbouring countries and consequently the reasonable chance of success.

Mohammed Bouazizi’s  self immolation and subsequent death on the 4 January 2011 brought together all those dissatisfied with the Tunisian regime, leading to its downfall and laying the foundations for the first democratic state in the Arabic family of nations.

The debate in the Global Forum focused on the discontinuity of the electoral process in contrast to the permanence of political dialogue and participation. In a society which has rediscovered its hold over its own destiny, it is emphasised that political participation bridges the gaps of political time and goes beyond political monoplies. All Tunisian participants emphasised the fact that direct democracy reinforces – and is complimentary to – representative democracy.

Power originates from the people, who ultimately remain its sole arbitror. This can be done through referenda, not just to delete legislation but also to propose measures which the elected representatives did not consider necessary.

It is an ongoing debate that sees young people, women and trade unionists together with a new generation  of political activists debating the next steps to be taken by a democratic Tunisia.

It is in Malta’s interest to nurture this democratic development on our southern borders. We are not accustomed to having this type of neighbour!   During a recent meeting with Tunisian Premier Habib Essid, Malta’s Foreign Minister George Vella stated that Malta was willing to support Tunisia’s democratic process.  Back in 2012, in the first months after the revolution, Michael Frendo, then Speaker of Malta’s House of Representatives,  had also been in Tunisia, offering Malta’s  hand of friendship and cooperation to our neighbours.

Some positive developments for a change to our south.

Published in The Independent on Sunday : 17 May 2015