Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 28 September 1978

Mr President, in presenting the Statutory Report to the Assembly it is customary for the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers to be as faithful as possible – on matters which do not refer specifically to his country – to the views of the majority, avoiding controversy and personal assessments. In doing so, he has to rely heavily on the permanent officials of the Secretariat.

This is understandable, much more so in my case, when my other responsibilities as the head of the Cabinet of my country are also taken into account. I may in fact add an interesting coincidence: this is the third occasion this year that the Statutory Report is presented by a chairman who happens to be not only a Foreign Minister but also the head of a government.

Mr President, let me thank you most kindly for your words of welcome and say that, despite my own absence from Strasbourg over the years – I was substitute member of the Assembly some thirteen years ago – the Labour Party of Malta and I have maintained a deep interest in the work of the Council of Europe.

The Socialist Government of Malta has grasped the first opportunity since it took office in 1971 of assuming the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers this year despite the many new international tasks facing them and the limited resources at their disposal. Unbelievable as it might seem, our predecessors, who now form a Conservative opposition, missed their chance in 1970.

Before reviewing the deliberations of the 62nd Session of the Committee of Ministers in April this year and the follow-up action taken by our Deputies, I feel it my duty to express my great sorrow at the loss of Aldo Moro, one of Europe’s greatest champions. Moro was a great apostle of European unification and a very strong supporter of Mediterranean co-operation. He died a martyr for democracy and peace and his absence from Europe’s deliberations will be felt for a very long time.

Tribute must also be paid to the memory of Karl Czernetz who passed away suddenly last August. He was an untiring member of the Assembly since the entry of Austria into the Council of Europe and had close association with it even before then. It was fitting that his long period of service should have culminated in his appointment to the presidency, which he held from 1975 until 1978. He contributed in no small measure to the part played by this Assembly in the development of ever closer co-operation between the states of Europe and in providing a platform for the European states who are outside the European Economic Community. For his unassuming character, his genuine modesty and his complete sincerity he was loved by all.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. It was natural therefore that the Committee of Ministers should take some special action. It did in fact do so by adopting, on 27 April 1978, a solemn declaration on human rights. Whilst stressing the paramount importance of the institutions established by the European Convention on Human Rights, member states decided, inter alia:

“to give priority to the work undertaken in the Council of Europe of exploring the possibility of extending the lists of rights of the individual, notably rights in the social, economic and cultural fields, which should be protected by European conventions or any other appropriate means”

Your debates on this subject and your recommendations will prove most valuable in helping the Committee of Ministers in taking decisions. We shall also have the benefit of the advice of all competent Council of Europe expert committees who have also been asked, as a matter of urgency, to consider the best way of implementing this decision. It is not possible to indicate at this stage the likely outcome of our discussions. It might well take some time to elaborate concrete measures on such complex matters despite the urgency attached to them. The Committee of Ministers will keep you informed of the progress being made.

One subject which has also been very much in the forefront of Malta’s activities over the last few years is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Our country’s views on the Helsinki Final Act, the Belgrade meeting and the forthcoming meeting in Valletta will be dealt with in the second part of my speech. Something must here be said about the Committee of Ministers’ debate on the subject at its last session in which the political consequences of the Belgrade meeting were evaluated. There was broad general agreement to look at the subject in the context of a dynamic and evolving process as a part of détente entailing the patient pursuit of long-term objectives. Ministers noted that the Helsinki Final Act had not been challenged in Belgrade.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, the concluding document of the Belgrade meeting has reaffirmed the Helsinki commitment of all signatory states to implement in full all the provisions of the Final Act, including those relating to human rights and fundamental freedoms. Ministers agreed that it would be useful to continue their discussions on this subject in the framework of the Council of Europe and to intensify such exchanges of views during the preparations for the Madrid meeting. In the meantime, the Ministers’ Deputies with the participation of experts, will continue the exchanges of views, devoting attention, inter alia, to the meetings scheduled in the concluding document.

It might seem somewhat banal to refer so frequently to these meetings with experts. Other chairmen-in-office have also made a point in the past of underlining their importance. It is undeniable that they do afford an opportunity for governments enjoying similar democratic institutions and sharing a common concept of human rights to exchange views on matters of great political importance which are to be discussed subsequently in a wider forum.

In accordance with their instructions, our Deputies held discussions with national experts on the Bonn meeting to prepare a scientific forum. In October, they will discuss the Montreux meeting on the peaceful settlement of disputes as well as the preparations for the Valletta meeting on the Mediterranean, scheduled to be held in Valletta in February next year. It is hoped that another meeting on the latter subject will be held before February and that the preparations for the Madrid meeting in 1980 will be pursued further in a thorough and business like fashion.

Another topic which our Deputies, with the help of experts, have been discussing, is the United Nations. A special meeting was held in June of this year, mainly to have a look at the prospects offered by the 33rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly which opened earlier this month. Among the specific subjects dealt with were the World Conference to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, human rights, hostage-taking and terrorism and the situation in southern Africa.

So that delegations of member states of the Council of Europe accredited to the United Nations may be made familiar with the views exchanged on these specific subjects in the Council of Europe, a meeting was recently called in New York by Malta’s representative. Such meetings in New York as well as consultations with experts from our capitals are bound to bring about better co-ordination of our collective efforts within the United Nations.

You may also wish to have some information about the sequel to the proposal made earlier this year by the European Trade Union Confederation for the Council of Europe to organise a tripartite conference on employment. The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg mentioned this proposal at the last ministerial session and it was generally welcomed. It was taken up by the Norwegian Government, which has kindly offered to host such a conference in Oslo in April 1979. Whereupon the Committee of Ministers has agreed to hold it on that date under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

A meeting of experts will take place next month to discuss the preparations for the conference. Ministers at the last session stressed the importance of this conference and were looking forward to the discovery of some solutions which might reduce inflation and unemployment and thus make the demand for the introduction of protectionist measures less pressing.

These remarks do not cover all the activities carried out by the Committee of Ministers as part of intergovernmental co-operation since last April, but only those items which appear to deserve a special mention. The Statutory Report in Document 4197 gives the complete picture.

Mr President, now that my duty as Rapporteur on behalf of my colleagues, the other Ministers, is accomplished, you will permit me, I am sure, to speak freely on Europe and world affairs as I see them and entirely in my own name.

I would be lacking in my duty if today, whilst addressing the parliamentarians of the western parliamentary democracies, I were not to state unpleasant facts without inhibitions. In this critical period of European development, it would be a great shame for any of us who believe otherwise to pretend satisfaction with the rate of progress achieved by this European Assembly or the European Community for a real Western European identity. Indeed, we are as far away from this goal as we have ever been in the darkest days of the cold war.

If we want to be honest with ourselves and with our people we must recognise how Western Europe has missed all the opportunities offered by the success of Ostpolitik. Notwithstanding temporary setbacks, notwithstanding the groans and moans of many Cassandras, Ostpolitik has resulted in a détente which is steadily becoming more real. Neither the moral and economic support of China nor the appearance of Euro-communism seem to have enabled Western European states even to lay the foundation for a third force, which, whilst keeping its economic and cultural links with either of the two superpowers, will act in complete political independence on the major global issues of today.

All Western Europe’s statesmen of whatever political colour privately agree that this must be done. They also agree on the priorities. Every sane person knows that without solving the problem of security it is impossible for Western Europe even to begin thinking in terms of self-assertion.

At Helsinki, Malta publicly led the way by insisting that there could be no European security without Mediterranean security. After months of bitter and acrimonious discussions, France, Italy, Spain and Greece and other southern European states rallied to Malta’s support and this principle was recognised and amplified in a section of the Final Act entitled the “Mediterranean Document”.

Even before Helsinki, Malta had urged the European Community for an earnest dialogue between the member states of the Community and the southern Mediterranean states. As a result of Malta’s initiative the Europe of the Six launched a “Global Mediterranean Policy” which attempted to draw as many as possible of the southern Mediterranean states closer to the Community by special agreements.

Unfortunately this good beginning came to a grinding halt at the very time when a better understanding of Mediterranean problems was urgently needed. Western Europe panicked when oil was turned into a weapon by the Arab states and the Euro-Arab dialogue – originally meant to strengthen co-operation in the Euro-Mediterranean region – was deliberately stripped of all moral and political motivation; it was debased into market haggling for the exchange of technical know-how and sophisticated equipment against a supply of oil.

No wonder therefore that after the support in Helsinki Malta was left to carry the baby alone in Belgrade. In Belgrade, Malta had to resort almost to political blackmail before succeeding in steering the conference away from the political bogs of highly moral but sterile subjects to some pragmatic advance. Finally our unaided efforts led to the only practical new deliberation for implementing the document signed with the sounding of many trumpets in Finland three years ago.

I am of course referring to the decision to hold a meeting of experts in Malta next February for Mediterranean co-operation in economic, scientific and cultural matters and for a meeting in Madrid in 1980 to discuss Mediterranean security. Even so Western Europe still slumbers on in her deep lethargy; how else can one explain the lack of response of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and indeed of this very Assembly to our repeated calls for an urgent preparation for these two most important events?

Let us make another easy test to measure Western Europe’s present state of moral sensitivity or mental awareness. The thirty-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East affects the destiny of Western Europe and the Mediterranean states more vitally than that of the United States. And yet throughout all these years the responsibility for seeking a solution has been shirked by the Western European states and the record has been uniformly unimaginative and dreary. It remains even more so after Camp David with potential disastrous results for us all: a muted second fiddle despised secretly by the Israelis and openly by the great majority of the Arab states. We have become so impotent that even when the fate of our closest neighbours and friends is at stake – the last days of the dictatorships of Greece, Portugal and Spain present the historical evidence – Western Europe fails to play a decisive role.

What is of more immediate and close concern to my country is Western Europe’s behaviour towards our small and defenceless people since the end of the Second World War. For the bravery displayed by the people of Malta in the war against Fascism and Nazism, Winston Churchill awarded a George Cross and Franklin Roosevelt a marble scroll. But there was no corresponding recognition in economic terms. Although Malta’s cities have been shattered by Nazi bombs, although the economic infrastructure was damaged beyond repair, Malta was the only country in Western Europe to be denied Marshall Aid. Why? Because Malta was a colony of Great Britain and as such could not be given a treatment preferential over the rest of Britain’s vast empire. It was a case of non-discrimination between colonies.

It was of course of little avail to plead with Britain and her Western European allies that being the only colony in Europe was not an act of our own choice. On the contrary, we accused the West of the blackest ingratitude as we watched one colony after another – India, Pakistan, Ghana, etc. – gain their freedom whilst the George Cross island – the most loyal and the bravest – was kept in political bonds.

We fared worse when Western Europe set up NATO and chose Malta as the Mediterranean headquarters. NATO – for central and northern Europe the shield against potential attacks of the Soviet Union – became the very reason why the Maltese people were denied their independence: apparently we were so indispensable for the freedom and security of Western Europe, Canada and the United States of America that we could not be trusted to enjoy that same freedom and security ourselves.

This Western European arrogance towards our people was carried to such lengths that when the combined intrigues and machinations of Britain, NATO and the Maltese Catholic Church – for eight years it was a mortal sin in Malta to attend a public meeting addressed by the Labour Party, to read a Labour newspaper and, of course, to vote Labour...

(Interruption by Mr Grant.)

I expect to have interruptions when there are questions and answers, but I expect some courtesy from members who attend here to listen to my speech. I say again: this Western European arrogance towards our people was carried to such lengths that when the combined intrigues and machinations of Britain, NATO and the Maltese Catholic Church – for eight years it was a mortal sin in Malta to attend a public meeting addressed by the Labour Party, to read a Labour newspaper and, of course, to vote Labour, and this in a 100% Catholic island – succeeded in putting in office a spineless Conservative government, the vituperation reached incredible depths.

(Interruption by Mr Grant.)

That government was rubbish: you are correct. That government was complete rubbish. Our Conservative predecessors were severely rebuffed when they asked for NATO membership; they were again mercilessly humiliated when their request for observer status was also denied. I challenge anyone to deny these facts, including the opposition, which has plenty of time to defend itself in our parliamentary democracy at home.

In June 1971 – as soon as we were returned to office – we sought an agreement which would a. give ample time to Britain and her Western friends to phase out the British military base and look for less Draconic means of safeguarding their security, and b. provide Malta with the financial means and with the time necessary to allow her economy, completely dominated by the British base and dedicated entirely to war, to be radically changed and geared to the new ways of peace. What was the European response? The whole of Western Europe mobilised all their mass media against us and for many months we were scorned and maligned. Had it not been for the steadfast support of President Ghaddafi, his Revolutionary Command Council and the people of Libya, we would have been literally starved into surrender. (Interruption)

This is a fact. If you want to challenge it you can do so later. If facts are unpleasant, my friends, it is not my fault. I have come here to state the truth, not to appear pleasant or unpleasant...

(Interruption by the President of the Assembly.)

Agreement was finally reached at the end of March 1972. It was stipulated that only British forces could make use of the base but under no circumstances against any Arab state. It was solemnly agreed that the British base would come to an end by March 1979.

For the past seven years the people of Malta have devoted their entire strength to building a new economy. With all their might they have tried to destroy the old image of an island-fortress ready to welcome the most powerful foreigner so that from this vantage point he could set out to dominate the rest of the Mediterranean region.

For the past three years the Government of the Republic of Malta has striven to convince Western European and North African states that it is in their best interest, in the best interest of Malta and the whole Mediterranean that Malta should choose a status of guaranteed neutrality after March 1979. It is indeed in the interest of peace – and therefore not least in the interest of the super-powers themselves – for Malta to become a centre of peace in this troubled region. For this aspiration to become a reality we needed balanced military and economic guarantees from our Mediterranean neighbours in the north and those in the south.

These guarantees were given to us readily, unstintingly and unreservedly by Libya and Algeria. They have been denied us by Italy and France. Even when we have patiently waited beyond the limit of human decency and beyond what is indispensable for the planning of our economy and our national security, the answers we are given are at best vague and conflicting, at worst arrogant and humiliating.

Without bitterness, without contempt, I verily say to you all gathered here that in the Western Europe of today, I do not recognise any of the old virtues which, with the French Revolution, the unflinching support of American independence, the setting up of the Commune, the October Revolution in Tsarist Russia, and the struggle against Nazism, forged the way for our European civilisation to grow in national freedom and social justice.

Indeed, it is very hard to discern any identity at all. We have the body – great conference halls and parliaments in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. This body has a big stomach – the gross national product of Western European states is a miracle after the devastation of the Second World War. But tell me truthfully – tell me today, my friends, for tomorrow may already be too late – does Western Europe have a soul, a political soul?

For remember this, in the history of all nations large and small, in the annals of all civilisations, it is the same as in the brief span of human life – a body without a soul is only a corpse. Thank you, Mr President. (Applause)


I should like to thank Mr Mintoff for his recitation. We now come to parliamentary questions for oral answer. I call Mr Pecoraro.

Mr PECORARO (Italy) (translation)

On a point of order, Mr President. The respect we owe to the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers must not allow him to use the rostrum to express opinions and make accusations of which the least can be said is that they must be proved. Such opinions and accusations introduce into a public debate extremely delicate and complex problems which can certainly not be solved by a display of demagogy (Applause), particularly because, in my view, Italy has always adopted a very sympathetic approach to Malta’s problems.

Mr Dom Mintoff’s reference to Mr Moro is due to the fact that the latter always gave sympathetic consideration to Maltese problems. My reaction will not be surprising, Mr President, because this form of attack is not only a blatant example of lack of respect for Italy and France alone; it affects and humiliates all the nations present in this Assembly as members of the Council of Europe. Therefore, I am bound to say that Mr Dom Mintoff’s last sentences cannot be regarded as acceptable or worthy of becoming part of the Council of Europe’s heritage of political solidarity! (Applause)


As an exception, I gave the floor to Mr Pecoraro on a point of order. Would the Prime Minister like to answer or react to Mr Pecoraro’s statement?... He is welcome to do so.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

Yes, Mr President.

First, I am very pleased that there is a reaction on two counts. I believe that only in this way can this Assembly start to discuss those very delicate matters to which my friend has referred in his speech. Those delicate matters must be discussed publicly if we are to know the truth.

I had the greatest respect for Aldo Moro. Not only was he a good European, but he was a friend of Malta and of mine. He was for many months the spirit and the prime mover to get some answers from the Italian Government.

I should like my friend, who has spoken so eloquently today in such generic terms, to challenge any statement that I have made in my speech. Is it not true that, after three years of negotiations with Italy and after three years of negotiations with France, barely six months before the closing down of the base in Malta we have not yet any concrete answers? Is it true or is it not true?

If it is true, then my contention is correct. If it is not true, then my friend is correct. There is no need to generate so much heat. What we have to do is to state facts. I have stated them. I have drawn my own conclusion. If the conclusion of the Assembly is that these matters are delicate and should not be discussed here, then, of course, I have lost and Europe has lost. But if the conclusion of the Assembly is to try to get at the facts and the truth and forget democracy, I have not tried to forget democracy. I have tried to rouse the Assembly to the responsibilities of today. I have told the Assembly that we feel as European as you do,' but we are not satisfied with the progress that has been made. I have told the Assembly that we are not satisfied with the so-called independence of Europe. If you are, we are not.


It is my duty to allow healthy open debate. I have powers under Rule 12 which it is my duty to use if I judge necessary.

We now come to parliamentary questions for oral answer, Document 4225. I propose that Mr Mintoff answers the following questions together:

“Question No. 1

Mr Kershaw

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers whether the committee has recently reviewed the position with regard to ratification by member states of the European Convention on Human Rights and acceptance of the optional clauses; and if so what was the outcome of that review.

Question No. 7

Mr Grant

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers what new proposals the Committee of Ministers has towards protecting human rights now and in the future, particularly in smaller nations.

Question No. 8

Mr Tabone

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

Whether the Committee of Ministers has considered the question of the acceptance by those member states which have not yet done so, of the optional clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights, and particularly of Article 25 concerning individual petitions;

Whether, in the case of Malta, the Committee has ascertained:

What are the legal or judicial obstacles if any to Malta’s accession to Article 25 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

Whether these obstacles existed when in 1971 the Malta Labour Party in its electoral manifesto gave an undertaking to accede to Article 25 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

Whether such obstacles existed at the time of the address from the throne after the 1971 elections, wherein it was stated that Article 25 would be acceded to;

If such obstacles do in fact exist, why mention of them was made in public only recently, and why nothing has been done to remove them during the past seven years of Labour government;

If such obstacles did and do exist, why they were not removed before appeal to the Privy Council was abolished so that the individual petition could be adopted at the same time.

Question No. 10

Mr Margue,

Recalling that when the present President of the Maltese Republic, Mr Buttigieg, was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly, he initiated a recommendation, subsequently adopted by the Assembly as Resolution 370 (1968), urging recognition of the right of individual petition in the field of human rights by all member states, but in particular by the Government of Malta.

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers how soon action will be taken m this respect and when the citizens of Malta will have the right of petition to the Commission of Human Rights.”

In the case of these questions, I shall call for one supplementary question each from those members who tabled the original questions in the order in which the questions were tabled; that is, Mr Kershaw followed by Mr Grant followed by Mr Tabone followed by Mr Margue. I request members to keep the supplementary questions very short in order that there may be time for a general debate, for which there are nine speakers on the list.

I understand that Mr Mintoff will have to leave before 1 p.m., but the general debate can continue until 1 p.m. I now call on Prime Minister Mintoff to answer Questions Nos. 1, 7, 8 and 10.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

With regard to ratifications to the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers has been informed by the Representative of Portugal of his Government’s intention to deposit its instrument of ratification in the near future.

The Committee of Ministers has recently examined paragraph 15. b of Recommendation 829 on human rights in the world, which deals with the question of optional clauses in the European Convention on Human Rights, and has taken note of its contents.

Mr KERSHAW (United Kingdom)

When the Committee of Ministers next gets round to reviewing the position, will the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers draw the attention of the Prime Minister of Malta to the growing and disturbing evidence of the deprivation by the Maltese Government of essential human rights which should be enjoyed by all Maltese citizens? Will he also ask why during the last seven years no time has been found by the Maltese Government even to discuss or implement the right of individual petition, which could be a form of remedy for the injustices being inflicted upon numerous citizens in Malta, especially doctors and other professional men and women?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

Mr President, with regard to the first question, I am surprised that the honourable Member concerned has the courage to stand up and make these allegations when over and over again visitors from Britain, and also from the Community, have come to Malta and no evidence has ever been published of the allegations he has made – no evidence whatsoever. To go on stating these facts is just driving the people of Malta to believe that there is a conspiracy abroad against them and that this conspiracy is because we do not want to remain a fortress either for Britain or for anyone else. We have as much right to our freedom as the people of Britain, the people of Strasbourg and the people of any other country. This is the only reason. I have seen no list anywhere of these allegations which are constantly made in this Assembly and throughout Europe. You have forgotten Iran. You have forgotten Nicaragua. You have forgotten the real dictatorships. You have just concentrated upon us without giving any evidence at all and without giving us a chance anywhere – on German television or on British television – to defend ourselves and to state the facts.

May I remind the honourable Member that perhaps I am the only Prime Minister in Western Europe who has had two libel cases against so-called great British national daily newspapers – the Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph – and in both cases they settled out of court because what they stated was completely without foundation.

That is my answer to his first question. With regard to the question on the individual petition on human rights, I wish first to state to my friend that since 1971 we have for the first time introduced an amendment to the Constitution which was actively supported by more than 85% of all the representatives of the Maltese people. This Constitution safeguards the rights of political parties and the rights of the individual. Acting on the provisions of the Constitution, the Government has very often been taken to court. Sometimes it has lost cases. In many cases it has won. So I think it is very unfair to give the impression that because we have not signed the provision for individual petition – and we have signed the other parts of the convention – there is a dictatorship in Malta, that people are being enslaved, and so on. I would like him to ask the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to Malta every year to see whether there is any evidence of suppression of freedom. We boast of being perhaps the only country even in Western Europe which has no political prisoners at all. We boast of having allowed people to go outside our country without any hindrance whatsoever, although their services are needed by the community for the most vital purposes. So we resent this attack upon us simply because we do not think the time is right for us to be involved in the decisions of a European court on individual petition.

I will state here and now, in answer to all these questions, that we intended to do this and fought an election in 1971 specifically promising to sign this part of the charter. We have not done it for very valid reasons. I will explain those reasons later but, before doing so, may I say again that the Opposition in Malta has for years droned on and on against us for not signing this part of the convention. A big part of their campaign in 1976 was devoted to two issues: first, the 1979 aftermath when the British leave Malta; and secondly this business of individual petition on human rights. The election was fought. We won the election. We explained throughout the election why this could not be done at this stage. It cannot be done even now. It is not possible because of the legal infrastructure which we have in Malta. We have law courts which are much slower than any in Western Europe. We have the most antiquated procedures. We must first reform the courts before we deal with the provision. (Interruption)

Mr President, it is easy to heckle, especially for those people who fail to have done this themselves. I must remind the members of this Assembly that the Opposition who are now crying so loudly about this individual petition on human rights failed to do this themselves, although they had ample opportunity before we took office in 1971. They failed to do this. They also objected to any observers from the Council of Europe coming to Malta to see what human rights are being enjoyed in Malta before 1979. They objected to this. We do not object. We invite you to come there. We are too poor to pay for you all but, if you want to come, you are all welcome and I will throw open all the doors, all the prisons, anything you like, so that you can investigate.

Please do not go on about this. If you do not like us because we do not remain a fortress for Europe, say so, but do not pick on us. There are much bigger members in this Council who have not signed the individual petition on human rights. Pick on them if you want to pick on somebody, but do not pick on us. Do not pick on us, because we are more democratic than many of your member states.


I hope it will be borne in mind that Mr Dom Mintoff is answering questions primarily in his role as Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers. I hope that supplementary questions can be related to the questions on the paper, and I hope that questions and answers can be brief so that members who have put their names down to take part in the debate can have an opportunity to do so.

I now call Mr Grant. Have you a supplementary question?

Mr GRANT (United Kingdom)

Mr President, I would first of all point out that the speech made by Mr Mintoff by no means confined itself to his capacity as Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers.

The question I should like to ask Mr Mintoff is as follows: Does he agree that in order to ensure human rights it is vital to have freedom of information?

Does he agree further that members of the Committee of Ministers, and the Chairman-in-Office in particular, should set a good example? How does he reconcile this with his action in forbidding all British journalists from going to Malta? When he says that he would open the doors and let everybody see anything, would he make a start by allowing the British press to do so?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

No, Mr President. I did not say “anybody”. I said “all the members of the Assembly”. I certainly object to the British press because it is a monopoly...


Human rights!

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I am inviting you to come to Malta. Apparently you do not want to come. I am merely inviting you.

I was saying that we have not stopped the world’s press coming to Malta. We have not stopped the American press coming to Malta. We have not stopped the French press coming to Malta. We have not stopped the Italian press coming to Malta. We took particular action against a particular press. Why? It was because even when the British Government intervened to tell the press officially that what they were always stating was completely without foundation, the British press did not even have the courtesy to accept the word of their Government and publish what the Government had stated. This applied also to the BBC. The BBC are now approaching us to see in what way they – this big organisation – can adhere to the truth and be more factual than they have been in the past. If you think that the small nation members of this Council have not got the right to draw attention to abuses by the mass media, then I tell you that we have no rights at all. If you believe that we, the small countries, should be trodden on by monopolistic media without reacting at all, I can tell you that we are not on the same wavelength when it comes to human rights. I repeat that we have not stopped the world’s press coming to Malta, we have not stopped the French press, we have not stopped the Italians or the Belgians or the Germans. We have only stopped the British press because consistently it starts campaigns against the people of Malta and the Government of Malta. We are ready to open our doors, but we must make sure that the two sides of the picture are always made known in Britain to the British people. We are doing a service not only to ourselves in expecting this but also to the people of Britain.

Mr TABONE (Malta)

I very much regret that I have received not a word of reply to my question about individual petition to the Court of Human Rights. I hope that the Prime Minister will now give an answer to what I requested.

Secondly, the Prime Minister has made reference, in reply to questions by various speakers, to the Constitution of Malta, which was amended recently. I voted for the amendments. But does not the Prime Minister believe that the Constitution must be observed if it is to safeguard certain rights? I should like to ask the Prime Minister, for instance, why he has not yet set up the employment commission, one of the new amendments to the Constitution which he proposed and we accepted. This is supposed to prevent injustice and discrimination for political reasons. Because this commission has not yet been set up, the provisions for safeguarding workers are not in operation. I should like to know why he has not appointed his members although the Leader of the Opposition has already appointed his.

The Prime Minister also made reference to the absence of political prisoners. I agree with that. But does he not agree that through recent enactments he has produced many political refugees – doctor political refugees?

Thirdly, I would like to ask the Prime Minister why he does not believe that individual petition on human rights can now be carried out when, as he stated, in 1971 his party fought an election with this as a very prominent issue, and when in the speech from the throne after taking office he undertook to introduce this as a matter of urgency.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

May I first of all answer the allegation about doctors as political refugees. We have not banned anyone from Malta. I can assure this Assembly that should any of these doctors want to return to Malta either for a holiday or to work, they are most welcome. To talk of refugees because people do not accept the conditions of work laid down in a Government hospital and prefer to get employment abroad through the help of the British Medical Association, which is fighting tooth and nail our health service in Malta, is a distortion of the truth and also a parody of realities which mocks the very existence of this Assembly. When has a “refugee” been able to return home whenever he likes and been able to take appointments at home if he so wishes?

We had two choices when the doctors did not accept certain provisions which were essential for the proper running of the Government hospitals, either to introduce emergency measures, which would have made it compulsory for the doctors to attend to the vital necessities in hospitals, or to say to them “If you do not like these conditions you may leave.” This is the choice that we had. We have not banned anybody. There are still Maltese doctors in Malta. They are still serving in the hospitals. To talk of Maltese doctors as if we had no Maltese doctors serving in Malta and they had all been banned from the country is so much rubbish, and all the time it gives a wrong impression of what is taking place in Malta. This is what we object to. We object to distortion of the facts by people with a fascist past and people who have been in office in Malta, because of the mortal sins imposed by the Catholic church. I know that I had booing and hissing when I stated this in my speech, but I challenge anyone here to deny this fact.


I deny it. This is a distortion of the truth.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

Mr Tabone denies it, but it is true that we were excommunicated for eight years. Even the Church of Rome does not deny it. We reached agreement with the Church in 1969 whereby the Church undertook not to interfere in the political affairs of the island so long as it had complete freedom of worship, which we had guaranteed to it from the very beginning. I can send documents to this Assembly showing the agreement reached with the Church. Many members of this Assembly who are also members of the Socialist Internationale know the truth about these things, and particularly my Italian friend, who spoke of the emergency, knows that this is true.

Therefore, we have not banished anyone and will be quite happy to receive the doctors back if they accept the conditions laid down by the hospital authorities. We do not accept that the British Medical Association should make regulations for us in our hospitals.

The British Medical Association had better put its own house in order at home. I am saying this because I know of doctors who have found better, better-paid jobs in Britain through the offices of the British Medical Association, and to talk of those doctors as though they were exiles is so much rubbish. They are earning better salaries abroad and they are people for whom the atmosphere of the British Medical Association and British medical services is more congenial than our own. This is the position.

I turn again to the question of individual petitions. This Assembly has today had strong evidence about the Opposition always claiming that we do not answer their questions. I have said before that we were genuinely under the impression that we could introduce this part of the European Charter in 1971. With better talks and better advice we came to the conclusion that this must be postponed until the reform of our courts takes place. At home the Opposition agree that if anything needs reform it is the courts. They all agree to this...


That is irrelevant.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I hear it said that this is an irrelevance. Who in Europe would start reform at the very top saying, “I will give a chance for Europeans to go to the European Court”, when he knew that his first job was to reform his own courts at home? (Interruption)

The Opposition were saying this all the time during the last election, but it cut no ice with the people of Malta. They voted us back to power.


I think we should again turn into the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and not the national assembly of Malta. If the Prime Minister will allow me, I should like to continue with the next question, Question No. 10 from Mr Margue. Mr Prime Minister?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

First, I am very surprised that the honourable Member should state that we refused to sign this provision of the charter. I have said that we refused to sign it before we had reformed the law courts; and I can assure the Assembly that we shall reform the law courts long before the end of the life of the present government in Malta. Let me make clear that it is on the cards, and we shall do it; so it is not right to say that we refused to sign this provision of the charter. We are saying, and we say again, that we do not think it is wise to do so before we reform the law courts, and it is we who run the country, not my friend. We have responsibility towards our people and do not think it wise to sign the charter in relation to individual petition.

I have said, and say again, that it is no good trying to say that when we were in the Council of Europe we asked for that. We did, but what happened? Did the national Government come here to defend themselves and state the reasons to the Council of Europe or did they stay at home, safe, because they knew that the Western media and their Western allies would not bother about pressing them into signing this provision?

Mr MARGUE (Luxembourg) (translation)

Mr President, no later than yesterday evening, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, by a unanimous vote of members present, addressed an appeal to all the member countries of the Council of Europe which had not yet done so to accept the right of individual petition and asked them to introduce it into their national law without any discrimination against any country whatever.

The first statesman to reply to our appeal – and it was only in his reply to Mr Kershaw – was the Prime Minister of Malta. This reply is a refusal.

The arguments which he used in support of this refusal are unconvincing. In all the member states of the Council of Europe we are today convinced that our judicial organisation needs reform, but this does not mean that we had to hold up the introduction of the right of individual petition to the international bodies for the protection of human rights.

I have before me Resolution 370, voted in 1968 by our Assembly, at the initiative of the political friends of Mr Dom Mintoff, who moreover supported us at the time. The question then is the following: must not Mr Dom Mintoff agree that his party has changed its attitude since his return to power?


I now call on Mr Mintoff to answer Question No. 2, by Mr Coutsocheras, as follows:

“Mr Coutsocheras

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers what has become of the report of the European Commission of Human Rights on violations of human rights in Cyprus by Turkish troops, which report, having been submitted to the Committee of Ministers in 1976, remains in abeyance, since the Committee has not followed up the matter, despite the provisions of Article 32 of the convention.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

This matter is before the Committee of Ministers who are all agreed on its delicacy. At the appropriate time recommendations will be made which we all hope will help to solve the Cypriot problem.

Mr COUTSOCHERAS (Greece) (translation)

Thank you, Mr Chairman. However your reply is not quite satisfactory.

For more than two years, the reports of the European Commission have remained in abeyance in the hands of the Committee of Ministers, although Article 32 of the European Convention obliges the Committee to take action on these reports.

Recently, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the European Convention. Only yesterday we discussed the widening of the scope of this convention in the matter of human rights, this “Prometheus Bound”, in Cyprus, and at a time when we ourselves, with a particular responsibility as members of this Council, are not complying with the rules of the convention and, more shocking still, the violations in Cyprus continue and other protests are being added to the previous ones.

Mr Prime Minister, I beg you to be good enough to remind your colleagues of Article 32 of the convention, and in view of your interest in the protection of the Mediterranean, I should like to know whether you wish that it should be called “the sea of the civilisation of man”.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I do not have to tell my friend how much I sympathise with his feelings, but I would be going beyond what is my duty today if I were to say that I could add anything to what I have already stated on behalf of the Committee of Ministers. I agree with him that we should get together and work very hard to turn the Mediterranean into a lake of peace; and I invite him and other members here who are representatives of Mediterranean countries to join us in this noble task.


May I now ask you to answer Question No. 3, from Mr Jager, which reads as follows?

“Mr Jager

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

a. Whether the procedure for ratification of the financial protocol to the EEC Malta agreement appears to be progressing at a sufficient pace; whether the financial assistance granted by the Community appears to be in accordance with the wish expressed in 1977 by Mr Tindemans, the then President of the European Council;

b. What consequences, in his view, will the south European enlargement of the Community be likely to have on relations between Malta and the EEC, from the commercial and the political points of view, and in particular whether he does not consider that such enlargement will make co-operation within the Council of Europe between a Community of twelve members and the eight other Council of Europe members even more necessary.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

In spite of Mr Tindemans’ assurances in October 1977 that the Community had agreed to concentrate its aid to take account of Malta’s 1977 deadline, Community funds have not as yet started flowing to Malta. The financial protocol has not yet been ratified and the help promised us by the Community to identify projects has not been forthcoming. Malta has therefore taken the initiative on its own and has forwarded projects for ratification by the Community. We are still awaiting a final reply. We are very disillusioned with the extreme slowness of the bureaucratic machine.

With regard to the second part of the question, of course we are in favour of enlargement. How could we feel otherwise when we are also aspiring to close European-Mediterranean co-operation? But we have to be careful not to mistake the form for the substance. We want the new organisation to have a political objective, a political ideal and a political potential.


I now call Mr Mintoff to answer Question No. 4, from Mr Bernini, as follows:

“Mr Bernini

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers:

a. Whether, following the Belgrade Conference and in preparation of the Madrid Conference, he considers it advisable to promote action to interest and involve the Mediterranean countries – which have various links with Europe – in the application of the principles of the Final Act of the Conference of Helsinki;

b. Whether, on the same grounds and in consideration of the dramatic events that have occurred in Iran, he thinks that the Council of Europe should, in accordance with the principles which are at the very foundation of its existence and activity, express the wish that human rights be respected in Iran and approach the Iranian authorities to that end.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

With regard to the first part of the question, the honourable Member is aware that the Mediterranean document of the Helsinki Final Act pledges co-operation between the thirty-five member states and the Mediterranean states which did not participate at Helsinki. The Belgrade meeting was the first step to translate these lofty ideas into action. The Valletta meeting in February 1979 is specifically charged to promote concrete initiatives in the economic, scientific and cultural fields. It would be presumptuous on the part of Malta to try to undertake alone the task of preparation. This is a matter which affects the vital interests of all the states belonging to the Council of Europe, and in particular of those which border the Mediterranean Sea. This explains why Malta has striven to involve the Council of Europe in the preparation of the Valletta meeting. Our proposal to set up a committee of experts of the Council of Europe has been rejected in favour of relegating this important issue to a perfunctory examination under normal procedures.

With regard to the second part of the honourable Member’s question, I hesitate to make a firm judgment in the name of the Committee of Ministers at the drop of a hat on the exercise of human rights in individual countries, and especially in those countries outside the geographical area covered by the European Convention on Human Rights. However, let me repeat part of the message which I addressed to the Colloquy on Human Rights which has just concluded in Athens, when I said that member states of the Council of Europe should make every effort to express their solidarity deriving from the Organisation’s stature in the field of human rights and its relations with the rest of the world.

With regard to Iran, the Committee of Ministers has not discussed the matter, but some individual member or members have already openly shown their support for the Shah’s regime. May I state here publicly that my country dissociates itself from this position? On the contrary, we want to express our moral solidarity with those who have fought for freedom in Iran, and we want to convey our sympathy to all the victims.


I now call on Mr Mintoff to answer Question No. 5, from Mr Banks, which reads as follows:

“Mr Banks

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers how he sees the role of the Committee of Ministers in assisting member states to protect themselves from outside influences which seek to impose unacceptable political systems.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I am not aware of any member state which has sought protection from outside influences trying to impose unacceptable political solutions. What I am aware of is the acceptance by many member states of foreign influences. If the honourable Member listened to my speech, he will be-aware of my dissatisfaction with Europe’s lack of identity.

Mr BANKS (United Kingdom)

I thank the Prime Minister for answering the question, but does he agree that the implication of the growth and influence of Soviet Union forces in the Mediterranean represents a distinct threat to Mediterranean and European peace? Is the Prime Minister prepared to give this Assembly an undertaking that he will continue to deny base facilities to Soviet shipping in order to demonstrate his sincerity to the European security about which he spoke, or is he concerned only with using Malta’s position to secure a financial bargain?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I shall answer the last part of the question. If I was concerned only with getting Malta a financial bargain I would have continued with the policy of all my predecessors and offered Malta to the highest bidder, both financially and militarily. This was the history of Malta during the thousands of years of its existence. The fact that we chose the path of guaranteed neutrality is ample evidence that we were not after taking anything out of the honourable Member’s pocket or his government’s pocket. We were after contributing to the peace and civilisation of Europe and the Mediterranean.

With regard to Malta denying facilities to the Soviet fleet, I do not think the honourable Member is referring to the merchant fleet. I can tell him that no one has striven more than we have during the past three years to get agreement between the states of Europe and those Mediterranean states which might have the wrong reputation of wanting to be dominated by the Soviet Union. We do not believe that they want to be dominated by the Soviet Union. At any rate, we have striven very hard to get them to agree that no soldier, airman or seaman belonging to the fighting fleets of either the Soviet Union or the United States will again step on the shores of Malta. For three years we have striven to do that. What will happen in the future will not only depend on ourselves. We alone cannot fight the might of either the United States or the Soviet Union. It will also depend on our neighbours, on the Council of Europe and on the whole of Europe itself.

I devoted the greatest part of my speech this morning trying to plead with you to think of an independent Europe which will rid itself of this incubus of either having to play second fiddle to the United States or falling victim to Soviet aggression. The remedy lies in our hands – all of us – and to try to put this onus entirely on the people of Malta, or to try to get me to give an assurance that this will never happen without your giving me an assurance in return that you will play your part, is extremely unfair.

We are playing our part. We have striven very hard during the past three years. In evidence after evidence we have said that we do not want this to happen to Malta. We do not want any Soviet forces or United States forces in Malta. I think that our deeds, not my words, speak eloquently for our beliefs.


I now call Mr Mintoff to answer Question No. 6, from Mr Lewis, as follows:

“Mr Lewis

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers what consideration the Committee of Ministers has given to the Assembly’s Recommendation 805 (1977) on the Council of Europe’s relations with management and labour, what representations were made by the European Trade Union Confederation, the International Organisation of Employers and the Union of Industries of the European Community, and if he will make a further statement giving details of and expanding the broad lines of the final reply.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

May I invite the honourable Member to examine the reply given in the addendum to the statutory report which has been distributed since he tabled his question. That reply is the latest position of the Committee of Ministers on this matter.

Mr LEWIS (United Kingdom)

I should like to thank His Excellency the Prime Minister of Malta and the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers for that positive oral reply, and for the written reply in Document 4197 and the addendum thereto, which I have read. I also thank him for his reference to this subject in his speech.

As the Prime Minister will be aware – and as, indeed, every one of us will be aware – two of the greatest problems confronting all the governments of Europe and all the peoples of Europe are unemployment and inflation, and the hundred and one matters connected with those two diseases. Without doubt, the most urgent needs of the peoples of Europe are full employment and the reduction of inflation. Towards this end I think the Minister will agree that industrial peace is absolutely essential. Happy and harmonious relations between employers and employed are essential, as are also happy relationships between their respective associations.

Will the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Committee of Ministers, give an assurance that every possible effort will be made towards this desirable end of trying to get industrial peace, cooperation and understanding? I should like to express my appreciation, as I happen to have been the Rapporteur, of what has been proposed, and I hope that the conference in Norway will be successful. I take this opportunity to thank the Norwegian Government for giving us the opportunity to have the conference in their country.

Will the Prime Minister please impress upon his colleagues that the scourge of unemployment must be dealt with, and that we must get industrial peace and understanding? Unless that is done, the whole of Europe could face very serious troubles.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I share all my honourable friend’s feelings and aspirations. I assure him that his remarks will be noted and referred to the Committee of Ministers.


The next question is No. 9, from Mr Beith, as follows:

“Mr Beith

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers whether the Committee of Ministers will discuss ways m which the newspapers of member countries can be encouraged and assisted to report the affairs of other member countries.”

Would you answer that question, Mr Prime Minister?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I do not know that the Committee of Ministers has ever raised the subject. If it does, I can say straight away what will be Malta’s position. We would have preferred to seek ways and means of ensuring that the monopolist media gave a chance for the expression of all opinions, and, above all, for the truth to be known.

Mr BEITH (United Kingdom)

I thank the Prime Minister for his reply and, indeed, for giving an advance indication of what Malta’s position would be if the subject were to be discussed in the Committee of Ministers.

Would he expect the Committee of Ministers to support the action, to which he referred earlier this morning, of excluding from his country the representatives of the press of one other country, namely, Britain? How does he imagine that reporting can take place if members of the press are excluded? Does not the Prime Minister recognise that the exclusion of the press of one country is a punitive measure that is used when the government does not like what is being published in certain newspapers? Does he really expect the Committee of Ministers to endorse the idea that governments, which perhaps disagree with what is written about them in newspapers, can take the punitive measure of excluding the press of a particular country?

If action of this sort is taken, will not a time come when the Prime Minister might find it necessary to exclude the Italian or the French press, or any other group of newspapers not at present banned from Malta? Does he not think that the Committee of Ministers, and the Council of Europe as a whole, must stand firm – even when individual members may dislike what newspapers say about them – against the use of punitive measures such as the exclusion of the press, which makes reporting impossible?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I should like very much at some future date to have a proper debate on this subject, either in Malta or abroad, with any of my British friends who believe so passionately in the freedom of the press.

I must first say that it is not true that we have banned the whole of the British press. We have been very specific about the number of persons whom we said will not have facilities in Malta. It is our right to withhold facilities from persons who do not exercise their profession in the best interests of the community. We are not prohibiting anything. The newspapers still come into Malta. They still have local stringers. The only difference is that the local stringers are responsible for what is stated in the papers.

As to the British national dailies to which we have refused facilities, we have made our position clear over and over again. If the British Broadcasting Corporation will have the decency to correct false information when even the British Government – and we cannot say that it is a very sympathetic government just now – has given it evidence that what it has stated is completely without foundation, we shall remove the present prohibition on facilities. But if we are to be left with no means of redress when palpable injustice takes place, what kind of solution are we to find to this problem of giving freedom to the people who run the press to state what they like, while also making sure that they are not purposely distorting the facts for some purpose?

We have tried everything. We have even tried getting members of the Opposition to state publicly that what is being said in the British press is without foundation. I know of one instance where a nationalist member of the Opposition wrote to the Guardian saying:

“I am appalled that you can be so gullible, and there is no foundation for what you are saying.”

This was not reproduced in the paper.

I will not refer to various other instances, which my friend probably knows quite well, where the facts have been completely distorted and where no correction was ever made. I remember a case in which the London Times wrote a leading article alleging facts which were not true. The Government of Malta gave the London Times evidence to show that the article was incorrect. It took the London Times about a month before it condescended to publish the letter sent by the Government of Malta.

If my friend thinks that this is decent behaviour – behaviour that he should encourage – he should tell me so openly. We do not think so.

We think that there is a two-way obligation. There is an obligation on the government to give facilities, but there is also an obligation on the press to tell the truth. In our case, we have not acted without first resorting to the British Government to use their influence so that facts may be known.

I shall refer, as an instance of this great distortion of the truth, to a statement of news contained in Die Welt. This will interest my German friends. Lately we read in Die Welt how the Libyans came to and occupied Malta with helicopters and so on. What is the truth? Did Die Welt ever ask what was happening in Malta? Did they send a correspondent? Did they ask the Maltese Government the meaning of the Libyan helicopters in Malta? If they had asked the Maltese Government, we would have told them the truth. The truth is that for many months we had asked the Italian, the British and the French Governments to help us to provide the means for the search and rescue operations which are required if we are to maintain our air services. These never came. When we resorted to the Libyans, they sent helicopters, and they are training our people so that we can carry out search and rescue operations. That is the truth. Do you think that it would have been right for Die Welt to reproduce these facts? No, of course not.


The next question is No. 11 from Mr Jessel, as follows:

“Mr Jessel

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers what action the Committee of Ministers is taking to ensure there is no victimisation against people who want to work.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I am afraid that I fail to understand what is meant by this question. My own experience in Malta is the continuous efforts of all responsible for the welfare of the country to provide employment. This problem was in the past solved by resorting to mass emigration, which was even encouraged through financial incentives. We would certainly not interfere with anybody who found work on his own. We try to protect all workers against victimisation by employers. I may add that we have trade union legislation which is of the most modern kind.

Mr JESSEL (United Kingdom)

As Mr Mintoff failed to understand my question, perhaps you, Mr President, will allow me to give a positive practical example of the way in which this can operate. I am sure that, as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, he would wish to ensure that Malta set an example in this matter. Why are workers in Malta dry docks denied the right to earn overtime wages if they have discontinued membership of the General Workers’ Union, which is affiliated to his Government?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

First, I should like to inform the honourable Member that the Malta dry docks, unlike perhaps the dry docks in Britain or elsewhere, are run entirely by a dockyards authority. That authority is elected by secret vote by all the workers in the dry docks whether they belong to the union – to which are affiliated about 90% of the dry docks workers – to the political party to which I belong or to any other party.

Let us have the background first. These dry docks – the only dry docks in a democratic Europe that I know – are run entirely by an authority elected from amongst the workers by all the workers in a secret ballot. That is the first thing.

The second thing that I want to tell the honourable Member is that I do not know of any court action in Malta by any member who says that he has been denied this overtime. If there were, I assure him that not only we but the Opposition, have complete faith in the deliberations of our courts on this matter. There is a remedy for all this. I do not know what he is saying or implying. If he is implying that I, as Prime Minister, have asked the dockyard workers to make regulations denying overtime to those who do not belong to the union, I assure him that is completely untrue. (Interruption)

I am telling you facts. These are facts. There is room for redress. Murders happen in my country, but there is redress for murders.


I now call the Prime Minister to answer the next question, No. 12, as follows:

“Mr Voogd,

Recalling the decision of the Committee of Ministers of 6 May 1976 (Resolution (76) 30) to extend the European Youth Centre, and noting that the extended building is now ready, or at least in the process of being finalised,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers whether appropriate measures have been taken for the extension to be effectively used, and in particular whether budgetary provision has been made for the realisation of the 1979 programme proposed by the Governing Board and for the necessary staff.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

The honourable Member will realise that bringing the extended Centre into full operation is inevitably a multi-stage process which concerns not only the staff but the development of the Centre’s programmes.

On the specific question of staff, last December, when the Ministers’ Deputies were adopting the budget for 1978, they anticipated the entry into operation of the new Centre this autumn by agreeing to the creation of two new A2 posts envisaged for the employment of tutors. On the management side they upgraded to A6 the post of the Director of the Centre in acknowledgement of his extended responsibilities. Furthermore, they also decided to create a B6 post to strengthen the administration of the Centre.

As for 1979, Mr President, your Assembly will be aware that the Deputies have not yet examined the Secretary General’s budgetary proposals, which will be considered by the Budget Committee next week and the week after. You will therefore realise that I am not in a position to say what final decisions will be taken. I can say, however, that the Secretary General, in drawing up his budgetary proposals, has taken full account of the further staff needs that will arise next year as a result of the extension of the Centre.

With regard to the Centre’s 1979 programme expenditure as a whole – here again, the final budgetary decisions will not be taken until November when the Committee of Ministers receives the preliminary estimates drawn up by the Governing Board – it was informed that, in view of the present financial situation, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Board were both sufficiently realistic to accept the fact that the final appropriations for the Centre in 1979 would probably have to be lower than the Board would really have liked. The estimate entered by the Secretary General in the draft 1979 budget for the subsidiary budget of the Centre is about 2 million francs higher than the 1978 appropriation. That would represent, if the Committee of Ministers accepted it, an increase of 45% over 1978 appropriations and 59% over 1977 expenditure.

I trust this Assembly will appreciate the spirit of realism while continuing to offer encouragement to the Governing Board, the Director of the Centre and his staff for the further development of their activities.

Mr VOOGD (Netherlands)

I want to thank the Prime Minister for his answer and ask him if he is prepared to do his utmost to provide the necessary funds for the future activities of the centre. It is not very logical to extend the centre and then find there are no funds available for those activities. Will he do his utmost to provide for those activities in 1979?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

The answer is “yes”.


Mr Valleix has asked for the floor on a point of order. The head of the French delegation has the floor.

Mr VALLEIX (France) (translation)

In truth, Mr President, I am putting a point of order. I see that the written questions will be the only ones to be discussed this morning, since we know the Prime Minister’s obligations.

I had not understood, like many of our colleagues in this Assembly no doubt, that in such cases exclusive priority was given to written questions, to the exclusion of oral questions.

The written questions are fully dealt with and everyone participates and shows interest. This is what I note.

But since the Chairman of the French delegation and France have been criticised, I take it ill, Mr President, that I am unable to put the question which I should like to ask the Prime Minister.


I have to draw your attention to the fact that the order we have followed today has been the customary procedure for very many years when the Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers is here. I remember that I myself came here as Chairman-in-Office of the Committee of Ministers in 1971 and that was the procedure we followed then. If you want to have the floor for a special point, you can have it now, but it should be a very short point because time is running out.

Mr VALLEIX (translation)

Mr President, thank you for authorising me to put my question to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, who has been listened to with the greatest attention by the whole of the Council of Europe. He was also good enough to express himself in his capacity as Prime Minister of Malta and even in a personal capacity, as he pointed out just now. If he did this, it is no doubt because he considered that our Assembly was a worthy audience.

No doubt he also noted that his words provoked reactions, sometimes quite sharp reactions, from several of our colleagues and from myself in particular. I well understood, among others, the reactions of Mr Pecoraro.

Mr Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, you know that France is particularly resolved to encourage the efforts made by the Maltese Government to give its country a status of neutrality. But the conversations between the representatives of France, Italy, Germany and Malta are at present marking time, that is the least one can say. Certainly this problem concerns Europe as a whole, and that is the reason why I address myself to the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, but I perfectly well understand that you should be particularly sensitive to this matter since it directly interests your country.

My questions are the following:

How do you wish that the security needs laid down by your Government should be restricted?

What progress do you expect from these negotiations, the success of which could only strengthen Malta’s neutrality?

Is it not true that the Maltese Government interrupted these negotiations for several months, which has held up their progress?

I am sure you would agree with me, Mr Prime Minister, that it is the desire of France – for France has a soul and a political will like all the countries represented here – to bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion in conformity with the objectives of independence determined by your country and in the mutual interest of the two parties.

In conclusion, I would add that it would be infinitely regrettable that the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, who is at the same time Prime Minister of Malta, should turn his back on Europe in this affair.

These are the questions with which we are concerned and I should be grateful if you would agree to give your point of view in these matters.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I am very grateful to you, Mr President, for allowing this question to be asked. I am only sorry that there is no more time for this debate to go on. I am very glad that finally we are reaching a stage where logic seems to prevail over sentiment. It is a pity that we are achieving this atmosphere right at the end of this meeting.

I am grateful to my friend for his question. It is a genuine question which deserves a very accurate and well considered answer on my part. First, let me tell him that it is impossible for any decent government to have no plans for its future security and for its finances after March 1979. In another context I quoted our position with regard to search and rescue facilities. I quoted this in the context of fair reporting by the European press, but I now quote it as an answer to your question. We have been attacked, even in the British press, who say that we are so denuded of ordinary security that it would be unsafe for tourists to come to Malta.

We had to take some measures. We had to tell our German friends, our French friends and our Italian friends that there must be a time-limit to these discussions. We told them that the decent time-limit would be 31 August 1977. They paid no attention to this. They did not agree, so we had to resort to looking for other solutions. We cannot alone start this noble task – and I underline the word “noble” – of having security in the Mediterranean. We have pleaded with the Italians. I say this publicly now. I have asked for an interview with the Italian Prime Minister, saying: “It is getting late. I must come and see you.” He said: “There is no point in seeing me. We have nothing to say. We are still discussing matters with our allies.”

At one time we were under the impression that the United States was putting spokes in the wheel. It is not true. We had a letter from President Carter telling us that he is encouraging his European friends to extend all possible help to Malta so that this status can be reached. If you are as keen on this as you say you are in France, and if you are as keen on this as you say you are in Italy, what has prevented you during the last two years from concluding the negotiations with us? Was it the hope that the Maltese Government would break down in some way and there would again be a reversion to the previous status of NATO headquarters? What is it? Why? How could we as a decent government, being attacked day in and day out by the Opposition and being accused of not making any provisions for after March 1979, delay these negotiations any longer? The time-limit was 31 August 1977. Nobody said that this was an unreasonable time limit. Nobody asked to be given a fortnight longer, or three weeks or a month. We were just ignored as if we did not exist. If we are ignored and are regarded as not existing, we have to provide for the security and welfare of our people, and what can we do except turn to those who really pay attention to our needs?

If I am asked whether it is too late to retrieve the situation, I say that nothing is too late in life, but we have to take account of the new position which has developed and take account of the fact that we are already negotiating details with Libya and Algeria, and we have to conclude these negotiations because we want to know where we stand. We shall know where we stand with these two countries, but do we know where we stand with Italy and France?

It is no good anyone being offended because I tell you this. I have not come here to offend people. I have come to plead with everybody that if you want events to shape in your own interest you should wake up and do things in time.

This is what we have pleaded with you. This was my message. It was not a message to offend anybody. Of course you have other tasks to perform, but we believe that this is a task which you have neglected. We believe that this is a task which was bungled. We must all admit that it was bungled. If you are not going to admit it, we are not going to get anywhere. I am prepared to work with you quickly in some way, an emergency way, to salvage the situation. This is all I can say.


Thank you, Mr Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister must now leave. The Assembly will wish to express their thanks to him for his presence today and for his contributions to our proceedings. He has, however, other responsibilities. I am very sorry for other speakers who were on the list, but time has run out. The debate has taken much longer than was foreseen.

Mr CHANNON (United Kingdom)

On a point of order, Mr President. May I ask why, without any disrespect to Mr Valleix, you allowed an oral question to take precedence over the written questions which had been put down, thereby cutting out members who had put down written questions. You allowed someone at the last minute to put an oral question, thus cutting out other members.


That was because Mr Pecoraro, as head of a delegation, had the floor on this special point, and Mr Valleix, in the same capacity as head of the French delegation, also wanted to comment on negotiations and debates which took place between some European countries and the European country of Malta. I think it was in the interest of European co-operation that this question should be dealt with in the way in which it has been dealt with.

I think that we may be very grateful that the discussion has taken place. I have to apologise to other members. It may be that the Prime Minister wants to answer one more question. I give the floor to the Prime Minister.

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

May I ask you, Mr President, as a special favour to allow these questions to be asked? I would have preferred all these questions to be put impromptu so that I could do my best to answer them.


May I, then, ask you to be very brief, Mr Prime Minister. We have another problem. The interpreters need a rest before the committee meet. If the Prime Minister is willing to continue beyond the point that he had mentioned to me, we can do that, but only if we are very brief.

The next question is No. 13 from Mr Channon, as follows:

“Mr Channon

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers what action the Committee is taking to ensure that entry to higher education throughout the member states is determined only by the ability of the students.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

The text of the European Convention on the Equivalence of Diplomas leading to Admissions to Universities was open to signature in 1963 and was followed by a protocol in 1964. At the present time two working parties in the Council for Cultural Co-operation are studying problems connected with higher education, including access to higher education. Their findings will be considered by the CDCC early next year.


Does the Prime Minister recall, as he came in this morning, the unanimous decision of this Assembly that the basic right to all forms of education was one of the new features which should be put into the Social Charter? Can he comment on the very worrying reports that come to us from Malta that in Malta entrance to universities is determined by a selection board on which there is a majority appointed by Government ministers, that onerous conditions are required of students entering university, and that entrance to university is not determined by ability alone but there are conditions which require people to remain in employment with their present employers and they have to be sponsored? Will he please ensure that if that is indeed the case he will pay due regard to the resolution passed by this Assembly this morning so that these entrants to universities can in future be determined only by ability?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

That was a long question and it needs a very long answer. However, because I cannot take too much of the Assembly’s time, may I assure Mr Channon first that the Government of Malta will not use discrimination against any student who has the required qualifications.

What the ministerial committee at the moment does, until we have the other democratic bodies completely set up, is to listen to appeals from those who have not been admitted to university. It is not the other way round. If I am a student and consider that I have wrongly been refused entrance and that my qualifications are higher than those of another student who has been admitted, I have the right to appeal to that committee. That is all. I do not think that there is any provision of this sort in any other country. This is a safeguard to ensure that those who have the right qualifications will be admitted.


Perhaps the last question that can be answered is No. 15, from Mrs von Bothmer, as follows:

“Mrs von Bothmer,

Referring to the exchange of views with members of the Minister’s Deputies working on information policy in London in July 1978,

To ask the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers if the report of the working party, once finalised, will be transmitted to the Parliamentary Assembly and its Committee on Parliamentary and Public Relations.”

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

The Committee of Ministers has not yet examined the report of the working party. It will be considered for the first time at the October meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies.

The Member will understand that no decision has yet been taken on the transmission of the report to the Assembly. I cannot prejudge the decision of the Committee, but it would seem a logical follow-up to the recent contact between members of Mrs von Bothmer’s committee and members of the working party of the Minister’s Deputies.

Mrs von BOTHMER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

May my committee assume that it will have a chance to discuss the matter with the Committee of Ministers before they finally adopt this report?

Mr Mintoff, Prime and Foreign Minister of Malta

I have asked for the help of the officials on this matter because I am not very conversant with either the issues that may be raised in the near future or the time that is made available for these various matters; but I am told by officials that this is very probable.


I again thank the Prime Minister for his presence and for his contribution to our proceedings.