Chernobyl revisited

Chernobyl in Ukraine on 26 April 1986, 36 years ago, was the site of a major nuclear disaster. All that came to mind once more when the Russian and Byelorussian forces invaded Ukrainian territory over two months ago.

The invading forces took over the Chernobyl nuclear power station site. Troops were observed excavating trenches around the site where the nuclear accident happened 36 years ago. It was only this week that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that the radiation levels at Chernobyl, after being tested, have been certified as being within safe limits; but it is definitely not safe for a picnic!

The nuclear clean-up at Chernobyl is ongoing. Starting immediately in 1986, it is scheduled to last at least until the year 2065. Possibly much beyond that!

36 years on, Chernobyl is still of concern not just to those living in its vicinity, but to all of Europe.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster had brought many to their senses as to the dangers of nuclear energy, notwithstanding the sophisticated technology utilised in the industry. This was further reinforced by the Fukushima disaster, much closer in time on 11 March 2011. In the aftermath of Fukushima various countries opted for a phase-out of their dependence on nuclear energy. Germany led the way, our Italian neighbours to the North opting for a nuclear free future through a referendum in June 2011.

All this had a particular significance for Malta as it meant that plans for the construction of a nuclear power station at Palma di Montechiaro along the southern Sicilian coast, less than 100 kilometres to the North of Gozo, were mothballed. Southern Sicily as we know is an earthquake prone zone.

Occasionally there are rumblings of a renewed interest in the use of nuclear energy. The French government has for years been acting as a nuclear salesman all around the Mediterranean. It is known that agreements to set-up and operate various nuclear plants exist relative to various North African countries. Nicholas Sarkozy had even arrived at an agreement with Gaddafi just weeks before he was ousted.

Within the EU the debate is ongoing, at times spearheaded by the fact that the generation of nuclear energy emits relatively little carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of electricity generated. Nuclear energy does however cause significant environmental negative impacts through the waste streams which it generates, namely spent nuclear fuel, rock waste at uranium mines and mills and the release of large amounts of uncontrolled radioactive emissions whenever accidents occur. The Chernobyl, Fukushima and the Three-Mile Island nuclear accidents are irrefutable testimony that the environmental damage resulting from nuclear accidents is not just enormous but also at times difficult to control.

The IAEA reports that as of 2022 there are 493 nuclear power reactors in operation in 32 different countries.  We tend to be aware of the major nuclear accidents at Chernobyl (1986) or Fukushima (2011), and possibly that at Three-Mile Island in the US (1979). Countless other “minor” accidents have however occurred over the years. In some cases, the accidents were under control just in time, avoiding their development into a major accident.

Our neighbours rejected nuclear energy twice in two different referenda, one in 1987 after Chernobyl, the other in 2011 after Fukushima. In 2011 the Italian government was planning to construct 10 nuclear reactors. These plans were only thwarted as a result of the 2011 referendum.

It is a responsibility of the Maltese government to be on the alert as these plans could be reactivated in the near future.  This would be a danger developing on our doorstep.

published on the Malta Independent on Sunday : 1st May 2022

The recycled summit



The Valletta Migration Summit is over. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has described it as a ‘historic summit’. It seems to me that it would be more accurately described as the ‘recycled summit’.

In one of the last speeches at the Summit, on Thursday morning, Senegalese President Macky Sall encapsulated in a few words the sentiments of the African side when he stated that African nations would have no need of aid if multinationals corporations active on the African continent paid their fair share of taxes and a fair price for the natural (African) resources. Of course President Sall left out an important last sentence: he avoided any reference to corrupt politicians generally in sync with these multinational corporations.

Earlier in the week had seen the 20th anniversary of the judicial killing of environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues, who were executed on the orders of a secret military tribunal on the basis of trumped-up charges in Nigeria on 10 November 1995. Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues had  stood up in defence of the Ogoni people against Anglo-Dutch multinational Shell, who ignored one and all in its intensive corporate greed.

The conclusions of the Valletta Summit are nothing but a re-cycling of measures that have been discussed for some time: EU leaders have continued to focus on returning migrants and outsourcing problems to frontline states. This is an approach that the EU had previously attempted with Libyan dictator Gaddafi who, way back in 2010, had demanded €5 billion as his price-tag to stem the flow of immigrants across the Mediterranean. In contrast, the initial carrot dangled before African heads of state was a mere €1.8 billion. Another €3 billion was simultaneously being offered to Turkey by Frans Timmermans Vice President of the EU Commission.

Bargaining with non-EU countries in the hope of trading EU funds in return for re-admission mechanisms is not the right approach. The original EU proposal of linking funds to a take-back of immigrants who did not qualify for asylum had to be withdrawn as the African side of the Summit refused the bait.

The causes of immigration into the EU are various. They range from repression and civil war to the accumulating impacts of climate change – primarily drought and the resulting collapse of domestic agriculture. Matters are made worse as a result of tribal rivalry, as well as the absence of the strong institutions of a democratic state. Consequently, the resulting vacuum is filled by corrupt politicians who, after taking their fill from accommodating multinational corporations seek to top up their spoils through additional contributions from Brussels.

The situation is tricky for the EU as there is no one else to talk to. It is for this reason that the Action Plan tied the proposed €1.8 billion assistance to specific projects subdivided into sixteen priority areas built around five priority domains.

Will this Action Plan solve anything? It is too early to tell, as it is a long-term issue which will be implemented within a number of timeframes specified in the plan itself. The main point of contention remains the immediate short term, during which the pressures on the EU borders will keep increasing to the point that, as Donald Tusk indicated, the whole Schengen process is under threat.

In this context it is pertinent to underline that Malta has recently been spared the troubles as the flow of immigrants ending in Malta has decreased to a trickle as a result of Italy taking up all immigrants that it has intercepted or rescued in Malta’s search and rescue area. The reasons why Italy is behaving in this manner are not yet officially known: the rumour mill has it that oil exploration rights are part of the equation. Originally, Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela had indicated that there was some informal agreement with Italy only for him to come back and state that he had been understood.

As stated by Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian Prime Minister and Liberal leader in the European Parliament : “The EU leaders have let us down.”

While the Valletta Summit has agreed to a reasonably detailed Action Plan which can form the basis of action in the long term, it has failed at containing the migration crisis in the short term.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 15 November 2015

L-interess nazzjonali


Qed jgħidulna li min jitkellem b’mod kritiku dwar dak li jkun qed jiġri f’Malta barra l-pajjiż ikun qed jaġixxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali.

Jekk taqra dak li qed jingħad qiesu hemm xi obbligu li f’fora internazzjonali kull Malti għandu l-obbligu li jfaħħar u jappoġġa dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Bħala eżempju ġieli jgħidulna li d-delegazzjoni Laburista fil-Parlament Ewropew appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg għal Kummissarju Ewropew. Qiesu jridu jgħidulna li għamlu hekk minkejja li kienu jafu li dik ma kienitx għażla tajba, iżda huma xorta taw l-appoġġ tagħhom, ovvjament fl-interess nazzjonali!

Fil-fatt meta d-delegazzjoni Laburista appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg (minkejja li kienet taf li dik kien proposta żbaljata tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi) imxiet kontra l-interess nazzjonali, għax l-interess ta’ Malta kien li jkollna Kummissarju differenti.  Tonio Borg minkejja l-kwalitajiet tajba tiegħu ma kienx għażla tajba għall-kariga ta’ Kummissarju Ewropew.

Bħalma l-Labour dakinnhar żbaljaw, illum jippretendu li l-iżball tagħhom jimitah kulhadd. Jippretendu appoġġ għami għal dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Taqbel u ma taqbilx. Fl-interess nazzjonali, ovvjament.

Ma hemm l-ebda obbligu li nagħtu appoġġ lill-Gvern meta dan jiżbalja. La f’Malta u l-anqas barra minn Malta.  Hu kontra l-interess nazzjonali li tappoġġa proposti żbaljati biex tidher taparsi patrijott.

X’tagħmel il-GWU dwar il-proposta tal-Gvern dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza hi għażla tagħha. Il-GWU għandha kull dritt (u obbligu) li tasal għall-konklużjonjiet tagħha dwar dak li jkun għaddej. Kif jagħmel ħaddieħor. Pero’ l-President tal-GWU ma għandu l-ebda dritt jippretendi u jinsisti li d-diskussjoni ma tmurx lil hinn minn xtutna. Dak li qed jipproponi l-Gvern dwar iċ-ċittadinanza għandu, implikazzjonijiet serji lil hinn minn xtutna u għalhekk hu floku li l-Parlament Ewropew jiddiskuti l-materja f’nofs Jannar 2014.

Dak kollu li jiġri Malta qatt ma kien ta’ interess għalina biss. Iktar u iktar illum li niffurmaw parti mill-Unjoni Ewropeja. Dak kollu li jiġri f’Malta jinteressa lil kulħadd. Bl-istess mod jinteressa lilna dak li jiġri f’pajjiżi oħra ukoll, kemm dawk li pajjiżi li huma qrib tagħna kif ukoll dawk li huma iktar il-bogħod.

Per eżempju kien hemm żmien meta l-Libja, fi żmien Muammar Gaddafi, ftehmet ma Sarkozy (dakinnhar President ta’ Franza) dwar ix-xiri ta’ impjant nuklejari biex dan ikun istallat mal-kosta Libjana ħalli jipproduċi ilma tajjeb għax-xorb mill-ilma baħar. Dan l-impjant, jekk il-kostruzzjoni tiegħu jseħħ, jista’ jkollu impatt negattiv fuq Malta, iżda minkejja dan ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu dwaru ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. L-anqas meta l-Italja taħt Silvio Berlusconi ipprovat tibni impjant nuklejari 94 kilometru l-bogħod minn Għawdex (f’Palma di Montechiaro mal-kosta t’isfel ta’ Sqallija) ukoll ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu f’Malta ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. Dan minkejja l-potenzjal ta’ impatt diżastruż ta’ dan l-impjant fuq il-gżejjer Maltin.

L-interess nazzjonali dakinnhar kien jitlob li l-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni jiftħu ħalqhom. Iżda kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-Labour dakinnhar baqgħu siekta t-tnejn. Bħala riżultat ta’ dak is-skiet dakinnhar irrenjaw l-interessi ta’ Franza, tal-Libja u tal-Italja, mhux l-interess nazzjonali ta’ Malta.

Fi ftit kliem is-skiet biss huwa kontra l-interess nazzjonali. Għandna l-obbligu li niftħu ħalqna dejjem. Nitkellmu b’mod responsabbli iva, imma mhux li nżommu ħalqna magħluq.

Hu fl-interess nazzjonali li min hu tal-fehma li l-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza proposta mill-Gvern ta’ Malta hi żbaljata jesprimi ruħu pubblikament, dejjem sakemm dan isir b’mod responsabbli. Ikun qed jimxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali min, minkejja dan, jibqa’ ħalqu magħluq. Hu biss is-skiet li jagħmel il-ħsara.

ippubblikat fuq iNews, it-Tlieta 31 ta’ Diċembru 2013

Dom’s legacy

During his lifetime Dom Mintoff  elicited extreme reactions ranging from adulation to extreme spite. Some lit candles in front of his images. In contrast others insisted  for his metaphoric crucifixion during the 1980s mass meetings.

The man certainly had a vision.  As he himself stated one of his priorities was the removal of those cobwebs in which Maltese society was entrapped. Removing these cobwebs finely spun and protected for years on end by conservatives was no mean feat. It is still work in progress.  It certainly required the skills and the stamina of a bulldozer which Dom did not lack.

Unfortunately at times his skills were misapplied. Those same bullying skills which were appropriately applied when confronting the colonising power were certainly out of place when applied against the Maltese population, at least that part of the population which disagreed with his ideas and methods.

Those hovering around him were at times more focused on their interests than on ensuring that he was properly  advised. This certainly showed as the better elements left the ranks of his party. Some went quietly, others with a bang. It is not appropriate at this point to quote chapter and verse. It has been done elsewhere. It is however not appropriate to just sing the praises of the man. He must be remembered in his human form, warts and all.

His political service spanned half a century during which he left his mark. He started off with his predecessor Sir Paul Boffa who laid the foundations of the welfare state when Labour was first in government after the landslide electoral victory of 1947. In later governments which he led Dom built on Boffa’s foundations widening and deepening the welfare state.

The man found comfort in the company of dictators. In fact he was a frequent visitor to their courts. His friends included Muammar Gaddafi, Nikolai Caucescu, Todor Zhivkov, Kim Il Sung. He was certainly inspired by Gamal Nasser’s Arabic Nationalism  which coincided with his first term as Prime Minister and his resignation in 1958.

The man’s legacy will be determined in the long term when the impact of his negative methods will have subsided. Then history will acknowledge Dom’s contribution to the formation of Malta’s identity as well as to the acceptance of social solidarity as an essential objective of good politics.

originally published at

On this blog you can read the following additional posts on Dom MINTOFF :

21st August 2012 : Dom Mintoff

22nd June 2012 : Dom Mintoff fuq in-Net TV.

5th May 2012 : Dom Mintoff : a political bully.

23rd April 2012 : Thanks O Lord for giving us DOM.

1st April 2012: Should we thank Dom?

Japan tragedy is an eye opener on nuclear energy – AD



The crippling of a number of nuclear facilities in Japan as a result of the mega-earthquake and subsequent tsunami should be an eye-opener for those who still advocate the use of nuclear energy.

Carmel Cacopardo AD Spokesman on Sustainable Development and Local Government stated that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, (which occurred on the 26th April 1986) the myths on the safety of nuclear energy have been shattered once and for all.

As a result of the Japanese nuclear crisis and in particular after various explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power station various European governments have decided to revise their use of nuclear energy. In Germany as a result of the continuous campaigning of the Greens  German Chancellor Angel Merkel has decided to re-examine plans to extend the life of Germany’s 17 existing nuclear power stations and announced the temporary closure of its two oldest ones. Switzerland has likewise announced putting on hold plans its plans for new nuclear power stations whilst  Austrian Minister for the Environment has called for checks on the safety of nuclear facilities. 

In the light of the above Carmel Cacopardo added that “it is very fortunate that the agreement between Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the French Republic and Colonel  Gaddafi on the supply by France to Libya of  nuclear technology to be used for the desalinisation of water along Libya’s Mediterranean coast  has not to date materialised. In the ongoing civil war in Libya access to and misuse of nuclear material would be an added worry.”

Prof. Arnold Cassola, AD Spokesperson on EU and International Affairs, stated; “The Maltese Government should take note of the statement of  Italian Minister Romani who has affirmed that, despite the catastrophe in Japan, Italy will not go back on its nuclear programme. The Maltese Government should take the necessary steps at EU level to ensure that the Berlusconi government through its construction of a nuclear facility in Sicily does not put the safety of all the people living in the central Mediterranean region at risk.” .”

Michael Briguglio, AD Chairperson, said: ‘The Japanese tragedy confirms that we are living in a global society of man-made risks, as is the case with nuclear energy. Such energy might solve short and medium term problems related to demand for energy, but is ultimately unsustainable because of the dangers it presents, and because global supply of uranium – its basic raw material, is limited., while the long term storage of the highly radioactive nuclear waste remains a major source of concern .  Global subsidies towards nuclear energy should be progressively diverted towards clean alternative energy such as solar and wind energy. Such energy has unlimited supply, is totally safe and does not contribute towards climate change’.