A deal that would have impinged on Malta’s neutral status but endeared the country to world powers has been rejected due to the weaker terms the island reportedly proposed.
America’s Status of Forces Agreement would have seen foreign courts have jurisdiction over soldiers, their equipment and other military personnel whenever they were on the island. The controversial deal was in the spotlight this week as US defence secretary Mark Esper was on the island on Wednesday, around the same time an “ominous” fleet of US airplanes were seen landing.
The US has long wanted to have this type of jurisdiction in the well-placed Maltese islands; however, both individual politicians as well as entire administrations have not implemented the agreement, fearing it would tread on the Maltese constitution’s neutrality clauses.
However, the Times of Malta reported that senior government sources said a draft proposal by Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo was not received positively by the Americans, and the proposal has been shelved again.
The draft proposal reportedly included a pact under the NATO programme Partnership of Peace which traditionally has been used to forge secret deals between countries.
With Malta not ready to concede jurisdiction to the US on Maltese grounds and the US unhappy with the “watered-down” proposals as they were, it seems the US may have to wait for the next administration before trying again.
It is believed that Malta was keen on making the SOFA deal happen to boost the island’s reputation ahead of MoneyVal next year, when the island will be evaluated for its’ anti-money laundering record by the Council of Europe.
Cover photo left: Roberto Cassar