I can understand that because I have to go to my parliament too. How can the business community prepare for something when they do not know what it will look like? Yesterday's visit was very much an eyeopener and a confirmation of our declarations but it provided a more informed position such that when we give our support we know exactly what we are talking about. We met the business community and the representatives and we can better understand this issue. However, there is also the Good Friday Agreement. The concern is not only regarding the commercial aspect, how matters might work out and what changes we might expect after Brexit, there is more to it. The Irish people, especially those who live close to the Border, know better than anyone else what the situation was in the past. No one wants to return to that and, therefore, we need to move forward on this. We know the situation that exists today and we need to preserve that - given the discussions taking place in the House of Commons in London - as was agreed by the EU 27 in terms of the support we give to the Irish Government and the Irish people.
Reference was made to whether there will be a hard Brexit or what kind of the Brexit we will have. It seems everything is possible as matters stand today. We need to be more focused on how the situation will impact on the people. For example, we have a number of people of Maltese descent who live in the United Kingdom and likewise there are citizens of the UK who live in Malta. Political declarations have been made by both sides. We want to make it easier to protect these people such that the impact of Brexit should not create difficulties for our respective citizens. That is the type of attitude we would like to continue to adopt when considering the future relations between the EU and UK but also on a bilateral level between each an every member state and the United Kingdom. We should definitely work hard to avoid creating hardships for people when it comes to education, health, work and residence. We also discussed that process in cabinet in my country in order to facilitate people as much as possible in every possible scenario whether we have a deal or a no-deal Brexit.
Deputy Crowe raised the issue of the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia's and he asked what does it mean to leave no stone unturned. I will not comment on what happened. I do not believe it is right to do so but I can comment on what that means for us. For us, it meant that we already arrested three people. They have been prosecuted and are going through the judicial system. We also for the first time ever announced that for people who come forward with tangible information, there will be a €1 million reward. If people come forward with tangible information that leads to arrests - there have already been arrests - and they have evidence that can lead to people being condemned for this, that is still valid. Local investigators have been involved and they have full access, as should always be the case, and more resources have been put at their disposal. There is co-operation still even today, as far as I am aware, with international investigators. I mentioned the FBI and the Dutch forensic laboratory, and Europol was also involved. This is what I meant by what is being done at present. That is part one as I see it. Part two is that the investigation is still ongoing. As I said, we need to verify whether these people acted on their own or people were involved in the ordering of the killing. Our hope is not only to bring to justice those three people who have been arrested. The local investigators, with the help of others, are working to bring to justice also those, on the basis of evidence the investigators will have, who ordered the killing. I can sympathise with the family. I might not agree with what they say, with their allegations or with their behaviour at times, but I can sympathise with them. I assure everyone that our government, with the respective authorities, would like to solve this case as soon as possible. That is for sure.
When it comes to migration and lack of solidarity within the European Union, such migration flows have been happening for four years. I recall in 2001 to 2002 when the migration flows began from north Africa to Europe that the number of migrants leaving at that time were fewer but over the years there have increased to hundreds of thousands.
This is a concern, and the EU has not agreed on how to deal with the situation internally. When I was the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, we discussed the relocation and resettlement programmes. This was done primarily to help Italy and Greece, which were considered to be under a great deal of pressure at the time. I am satisfied that we kept our promises. We were the first member state to implement them over a two-year period. We do not just talk about solidarity - we practise it as well. We wish for others to do the same. We are happy that Ireland is doing so and are thankful to it for the collaboration it has shown in various ways, for example, defence. Our collaboration in terms of the LÉ Aoife has allowed our armed forces to work in the Mediterranean saving lives and three or four ad hoc arrangements allowed for the relocation of a number of migrants.
The question on the direction Europe is going is a big one. We are not debating the future of the EU. Perhaps that is because of Brexit and our fears about one of the largest member states leaving. As mentioned, we are rightly afraid about that. Maybe we are not appreciative enough of how the EU will be after the UK leaves. We also need to consider the future relationship between the two. After the divorce, we need to start discussing a way forward.
Reference was made to austerity measures. At times, they hit those who are most in need. When austerity measures are in place, the first budget cuts are to pensions and social contributions. These cuts affect people who need them most, putting them under pressure and pushing them into poverty or risk of poverty. We need to reconsider whether austerity measures are the best way forward when dealing with difficult economic or financial situations.
It was suggested that perhaps Libya should be considered a failed state. We need to work with the Libyans. Libya becoming a normal state should be a Libyan-owned and Libyan-led effort. We must appreciate that it is not a poor country. Rather, it is a rich one when one remembers its oil production. We are not discussing a country that is poor, but one with many possibilities. The money is there. Therefore, it should be easier economically. My concern is from a security point of view, that is, whether there will be sufficient security to proceed with the elections this year. Spring was mentioned, but it seems that we will miss that target. Not only the legislative process needs to be in place, but also the requisite security. To proceed with this process, there needs to be political will on the part of everyone involved in every region in Libya and it needs to be supported by the international community.
I was asked about the social developments in Malta, in particular gender rights, marriage, gay rights and so on, that we managed to achieve in a relatively short period. Today, we view these as rights given to minorities, but they are citizens who deserve to be considered first-class citizens instead of being made to feel like second-class citizens. The changes that we made were a credit to activists who worked on this for a long time. I will also give credit to a Maltese Administration that implemented in a just way the rights that every person should enjoy.
A question was asked about abortion. It is not allowed in Malta for any reason. It is a criminal act according to our legislation. There are no steps being taken to change that legislation and the current Administration has no electoral mandate to do so. Mention was also made of sexual and reproductive health and rights, SRHR. With the exception of abortion, we provide all kinds of service that fall under the terminology of SRHR, for example, IVF.
On renewing friendships, I will reiterate that committee members may consider Malta as a friendly nation to Ireland.
I was asked about the mission of the EU and why we had the Union. We are nations of values, including solidarity, even when that solidarity is just interpreted by some as fitting their own purposes instead of the general well-being of each and every member state. The EU is also a confirmation of our belief in multilateralism and in being far better off together rather than apart. In today's world, we need to make this statement about multilateralism in terms of the internal and global challenges that Europe is facing.
Regarding the role of smaller countries, I agree with the comment on this being a union of states and that there should be no difference between a small and large member state. It is a union of states irrespective of size. Opinions and relevance should be respected.
Visits help us to understand the situations in other countries better. They also give us the opportunity to work together more on a number of issues. I had the pleasure of meeting the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, this morning where we explored the possibility of our countries working together bilaterally on a number of issues that we would like to consider further. We are not only partners within a union.
We also need to work to enhance our collaboration from a bilateral aspect. I agree on the parliamentary aspect mentioned. I believe in parliamentary diplomacy, and i am all for friendship groups, for example. Irrespective of the opportunities to talk with media and via different technologies, the human element should be included, and exchanging views and visiting our respective countries will help us work better together for our people. It is important to stress the parliamentary aspect of this, and use parliamentary diplomacy.