So, recently Robert Abela graced our headlines with his visit to Italy and then to Libya. In both trips, Robert Abela said he discussed security and energy. The government is requesting Italy to be connected with its new proposed pipeline project with Algeria but there is nothing confirmed or certain about this. The government also wants an interconnector with Libya and even on this, it’s all just talk for now.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is, surprisingly, taking correct stances and acting appropriately lately, notably seen with how it changed its position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine which contrasts with the previous position held by Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo. Yet, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is still what it used to be – a desk department for diplomats to conduct outreach with foreign states, manage passports and handle other small tasks of diplomatic activity. On security and the issue of immigration, there is even greater involvement by the Office of the Prime Minister in conjunction with the Ministry of Home Affairs.
This situation is sad, of course, because Malta should have an effective and intelligent foreign policy that harnesses its soft and economic power, but Robert Abela is very out of touch with the foreign world and isn’t capable of understanding this. The government is also in a frenzy to make plans for energy projects with foreign states and is soliciting numerous states and holding various discussions including with Qatar, but the government has no concrete plan and targets and is unsure about many choices and options. So far, it’s just confusion and improvisation.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs can help by proposing policy itself, and this is what it did with regard to Ukraine whereby it convinced the Prime Minister to change the government’s position on the war, but foreign policy supposedly reflects the aims and politics of domestic policy. With a domestic policy in ruins and based on our rent-seeking model, our foreign affairs become an extension of local corruption and this is what happened under the Muscat administration. So, there needs to be extensive domestic change before we get to have a decent foreign policy.
If we had a concrete energy plan with reasonable targets and goals, the Foreign Affairs Ministry would be busy executing it, but so far the Foreign Affairs Ministry is still a desk for diplomatic outreach. And this applies to all other issues: security, culture, economics, and trade. The Maltese government is bereft of concrete plans and goals on every issue so the Ministry for Foreign Affairs can only improvise.