Thursday, 26 December 2013

Times: Parties are ‘way apart on passport programme’

Busuttil says Nationalists to propose gay adoption report
Sunday, December 8, 2013, 00:00 by Herman Grech

Government and Opposition are still far away from a breakthrough on the cash-for-citizenship scheme, despite the Finance Minister’s surprising change of tone, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said.

“After 10 days of talks we’re still very far away from reaching an agreement,” Dr Busuttil told The Sunday Times of Malta.

The Nationalist leader appealed to the government to sit around a table and reach an agreement in the national interest, failing which the PN will consider pushing for a referendum.

The Office of the Prime Minister would not confirm details of the discussions taking place.

The government and Opposition are engaged in talks to try to find common ground after the highly-controversial plan to sell Maltese citizenship for a one-off sum of €650,000.

In a speech to the European Parliament on Thursday, Finance Minister made what appeared to be a frank apology when he said that Malta had rushed on the so-called Individual Investors Programme.

Prof. Scicluna hinted at a thorough overhaul of the scheme and even said the government would be introducing an annual capping of the number of passports it would be issuing under the scheme.

Reacting, Dr Busuttil said Prof. Scicluna “demolished” the citizenship scheme by repeating word for word all the Opposition’s objections.

“The irony is that Prof. Scicluna didn’t have the courage to say the same things in his own country.

“Thankfully, he was caught on camera saying those things. If the government truly wants to come to an agreement then fine, let Prof. Scicluna come back with those ideas, put them on the table and I’m sure we would reach agreement,” Dr Busuttil said.
‘We really need to think gay adoption through’

Should the scheme remain in place, Dr Busuttil said he would consider withdrawing the passports once the PN is in government. But before reaching such a stage, Dr Busuttil reiterated his party’s willingness to join a national coalition to force an abrogative referendum on the matter.

Writing in Times of Malta yesterday, constitutional expert and university dean Kevin Aquilina concluded that an abrogative referendum on the citizenship scheme cannot be held because the programme is a fiscal measure, despite originally indicating the contrary.

Dr Busuttil also revealed that the Opposition will explain its amendments to the Civil Unions Bill later this week.

The Bill will recognise same-sex partnerships and give them the same rights and duties as married couples, including inheritance, child adoption and social benefits.

Dr Busuttil said the PN will call on the government to send the matter of gay adoptions to Parliament’s family affairs committee to seek a social impact assessment before the matter is taken further.

“Bear in mind that today a gay person can already adopt. So the question is should a gay couple adopt and should this be sanctioned by legislation. I think that this aspect needs a proper social impact assessment before we legislate.

“On this extremely sensitive point which is of great public concern we really ought to think gay adoption through. We need a social impact assessment which is based in Malta. Let’s stop borrowing studies produced in other countries.”

Dr Busuttil said the law also needs to draw a clear distinction between what should constitute a civil union and gay marriage, pointing out that the proposed changes will not lead to any reduction in the rights being proposed for same sex couples.

The PN leader rejects claims that the Civil Unions Bill posed a problem within his party. He said in principle the party was in favour of a law which regulates relationship between two people of the same sex.

The PN’s proposed changes, he said, will only lead to making clear the distinction between a civil union and gay marriage.

Gay adoption will be the main topic of discussion in Times Talk, presented by Times of Malta on TVM every Tuesday at 6.55pm.

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