Malta in the EU
MALTA AND EUROPEAN UNION – A BRIEF ACCOUNT
In 1970, Malta signed an Association Agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC). The Association Agreement provided for two stages, each in principle of five years’ duration. At the end of the second stage, Malta was meant to join the EEC’s customs union, but this stage kept being postponed on the insistence of Malta and was only achieved upon membership. The scope of the Association Agreement was broadened in the mid-seventies following the conclusion of several additional protocols.
When the first stage of the agreement lapsed in 1981 without agreement on the second stage, relations with the European Community stalled.
Malta applied for EU membership on the 16 July 1990 and the European Commission published a positive opinion on the application in 1993. However, the application was suspended in 1996, although it was not withdrawn. Following a change in government in 1998, the application was reactivated. Membership negotiations began in 2000 and were completed in 2002.
In a referendum held on 8 March 2003, 91 per cent of registered voters participated, of which 54 per cent voted in favour of membership. Following more controversies, the issue was sealed by the national election of 12 March 2003 in which the membership issue dominated.
EU membership was a hotly contested political issue throughout the 1990s up to 2004, when a shift in the Labour Party’s position led to cross-party consensus. Inter-party consensus was achieved once more when the national parliament voted unanimously to approve the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe in 2005 and again when the Lisbon Treaty was approved in 2009. Consensus was also reached, when Malta joined the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and adopted the Euro as its currency. Malta’s membership of the Schengen Area on 21 December 2007 enjoyed broad national support.
Cross-party consensus on membership was consolidated in the first stages of membership when both political parties contested the 2004 European elections with the Labour Party, which had previously opposed membership, winning three of Malta’s five seats. The Labour Party secured a majority of European Parliamentary seats in the 2004, 2009 and 2019 elections. It was only in the 2014 election when the Partit Nazzjonalista (PN) and Labour Party each won three seats. No third party has successfully challenged the dominance of the two main parties in the European elections as to the same extent is the case in national elections. No Eurosceptic political party has so far come near to winning any seats in the national or European parliament.