Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Publication of Paper: The Politics of Bluefin Tuna in Malta

My paper "The Politics of Bluefin Tuna in Malta" has been published in the international peer-reviewed academic journal 'Annuals of Marine Sociology'.

The paper can be read at:

Briguglio, Michael (2013): The Politics of Bluefin Tuna in Malta. Roczniki Socjologii Morskiej. Annuals of Marine Sociology (2013), VOL. XXII. p51-61.

This paper analyzes the politics of bluefin tuna in Malta within the first years of EU accession (2004-9). The paper concludes that despite making certain impacts, ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organizations) were unsuccessful in creating a hegemonic formation to stop the fishing of bluefin tuna until stocks recover.

My academic publications list can be checked out here:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Civil Unions: A historic moment

Today history will be written in Malta, when Parliament is expected to legalise civil unions. Same-sex couples will have the same rights and obligations as married persons of the opposite sex, including the possibility to adopt children.

When one thinks that until a few years ago, Malta did not even allow divorce, one can only conclude that this is a historic moment in terms of social justice and equality.

When the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) was formed at the turn of the century, it started to articulate discourse for equal rights in terms of sexual identity. Small progressive movements – Moviment Graffitti being one of them – immediately supported MGRM’s calls.

Eventually others joined in, including Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party, Zminijietna Voice of the Left and a rainbow of new NGOs speaking up in terms of LGBT and Civil rights, such as Auditus and Drachma. Opinionists and journalists from media outlets such as Malta Today played an important role in articulating discourse along the lines of MGRM. An informal, fluid and broad alliance – a chain of equivalence – was formed around the demand for equality.

During the 2013 general elections, the Labour Party realised that Maltese society was different from the same society that opposed the introduction of divorce just a few years earlier. Besides, certain influential elements within the Party managed to articulate effective discourse in favour of LGBT rights.

Muscat’s Labour supported the LGBT movement and the calls for equality became legitimised across mainstream society. A hegemonic formation was formed.

It is interesting to note that social theorists such as Kenneth Wain and John Baldacchino (in their book ‘Democracy without Confession’) had already noted that issues based on civil rights would define main political antagonisms of our times.

Labour has now taken the lead of the civil rights situation. Joseph Muscat’s selection of Helena Dalli as Minister responsible for the introduction of such policy was a strategic masterpiece.

Of course, various policies introduced by Labour in certain areas – ranging from cash-for-citizenship to the environmental onslaught – remain what they are, namely neo-liberal policies which I cannot support. One can also argue that Labour is not ‘hurting’ any major economic powers by legislating in the field of civil unions. Yet, this should in no way diminish the historic moment in question.

Others, through their relative silence, electoral paranoia or conservativism, seem to be out of synch with the civil rights political imaginary of the current moment.

The Nationalist Party is making a strategic mistake in not supporting the proposed civil unions legislation, and seems not to have learned from its strategic blunder following the divorce referendum, which, arguably, was one of the defining moments of the demise of the previous PN hegemony.

I believe that Simon Busuttil must be in a difficult position in trying to balance out the liberal and conservative wings of the Party, and one must appreciate this. But, in the final instance, the Party is giving a message that it is not supporting such a defining moment in Malta’s political history.

On a personal note I am proud that I have always publicly supported the introduction of full equality in terms of LGBT rights, even though I would have preferred the legislation to refer to ‘marriage’ rather than ‘civil unions’, as marriage has a greater symbolic effect for those who opt for it.

At times, even within progressive movements one finds those who oppose egalitarian proposals. But this only strengthens the resolve of those who believe in social justice and equality. Likewise, such resolve can and should be articulated in the antagonisms yet to come. The struggle against precarious employment is one of them.

I dedicate this article to Ernesto Laclau (1935-2014), who has just passed away, and whose political and social theories are of great sociological and political influence to me.

This article appeared in Malta Today, 14/4/14
Link: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/comment/blogs/37995/civil_unions_a_historic_moment#.U0ve-DOKDIV

Saturday, April 12, 2014

ll-Vo(j)t video by Norm Rejection

Check out Norm Rejection’s Il-Vo(j)t here:


Il-Vo(j)t forms part of Norm Rejection's upcoming album 'The Radical Underground', which will be officially launching the new album in a live concert at Zion Reggae Bar supported by Sempliciment Tat - Triq and Rage Against Society, on Friday 11 July 2014.

Norm Rejection is Sean Vukovic (Guitar); Michael Briguglio (Drums); Wil Pace (Vocals); Rex Grech Santucci (Bass)

Facebook event page:

Norm Rejection is: Sean Vukovic (Guitar), Michael Briguglio (Drums), Wil Pace (Vocals), Rex (Bass)

Norm Rejection’s entire back catalogue has been re-issued at special prices!
Deconform/0002 Albums – available in double album package: 5 Euro
Belligerent EP (including Subtly Mesmerized EP): 5 Euro
Logo T-Shirts: 5 Euro
Contact mbrig@hotmail.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Dripht's new video, "Pacifista" can be seen here:


Dripht will be launching its new 3 song EP - PACIFISTA - on Saturday 12 April during a live performance at the Rock The South Festival at Zion Reggae Bar, Marsascala.

Dripht is Nick Morales (Vocals, Guitar); Michael Briguglio (Drums); Daniel Cassar (Guitar); Frederick Abdilla (Bass).

Rock the South 2014 facebook event page:



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MEPs not talking about the relevant issues

Candidates for the EP elections are talking about everything under the sun except the real issues they have control on

As the European parliamentary campaign gains momentum, one must be impressed by the fact that most candidates in Malta are getting away with populist rhetoric on issues over which the European parliament has a relative lack of power.

To give two recent examples, the fact that hunting is Malta is now subject to an abrogative national referendum only confirms that the European Parliament is relatively powerless on enforcing legislation. So using pro and anti-hunting arguments in the European parliamentary campaign is nothing but empty rhetoric.

And the fact that the government reached an agreement with the European Commission over the cash-for-citizenship scheme confirms that the massive opposition of the European Parliament to Malta’s scheme was merely symbolic. In the final instance, the neoliberal approach of the European Commission gave its blessing to discriminatory legislation in line with the ‘Fortress Europe’ framework, and Malta adopted the scheme.

On the other hand, the European Parliament has a strong degree of influence over the EU budget, and also in the adoption or amendment of proposals coming from the European Commission, where it acts as co-legislator with the European Council. Unfortunately, very few Maltese candidates are speaking along these lines.

A clear example in this regard is the process leading to a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the USA. If approved, this will have a huge impact on policy matters across the two economic blocs, paving the way for increased big business dominance and commercialisation.

The TTIP deals with investment and public procurement, market access of goods and services, regulatory issues and rules on matters such as intellectual property rights, social and environmental standards and so forth. Both the European Parliament and the European Council have both given their consent for a negotiating mandate for the TTIP process. The European Commission is negotiating on behalf of the EU and its Member States, and the European Parliament is entitled to be regularly informed on the process in question.

However, in accordance with the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 207(3) and Article 218 of the TFEU), the final TTIP agreement can only be concluded by the European Council and the Member States if the European Parliament gives its consent.

Some controversies have already come about. For example, as regards audio-visual services, the European Parliament and the European Council do not want it to be included in the TTIP, even though the US and the European Commission would like its inclusion. The latter can however make recommendations in this regard, which, however, require unanimous agreement of the Member States to proceed.

Another controversial area includes agriculture and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). The EU has tougher regulation than the USA on GMOs, especially since many consumers are wary on their consequences in relation to health and the environment. It should be of no surprise that environmentalists are critical of having commercial interests ride roughshod over ecological concerns in this and similar matters.

According to the European Economists for an Alternative Economic Policy (EuroMemo Group), which comprises around 300 economists from different EU countries, the TTIP can lead to lack of democratic accountability on various policy areas, if regulatory competence is transferred to unaccountable and unelected technocratic structures.

Besides, the dominance of commercial interests on various public and essential services can lead to lower standards to the detriment of public health, public safety, workers’ and consumers’ rights and environmental protection.

On education, teachers and students across the EU have also expressed concern on the TTIP, with the European Students’ Union being highly critical of having public education being treated as an ordinary economic service, where commercial profit becomes more important than quality education.

It would only be fair to have the TTIP subjected to a comprehensive impact assessment and debate across Europe before proceeding. I also believe that the liberalisation of public services such as health, water, culture, social services and education should not be allowed, as this could be of great detriment to the possibility of a stronger European social model.

A European referendum on the TTIP can also be considered. But apparently, European referenda – and their results – are only deemed valid when it suits the interests of the European ruling classes.

In the meantime, the electoral circus proceeds in Malta. And no one is discussing the TTIP.

This blog appeared in Malta Today, 2nd April 2014 - http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/comment/blogs/37583/meps_not_talking_about_the_relevant_issues#.UzvmWDOKDIU

Thursday, March 20, 2014

From energy oligarchs to electoral circuses

While the Labour government is perfectly in order and in line with its electoral mandate to make the shift from heavy fuel oil to gas as Malta’s main source of energy, it is also becoming clearer that Malta will be transformed into an energy-dependent state in the years to come.

The antagonistic interpretations on whether full, or part-privatization of Enemalta will take place cannot conceal a basic fact: that the main facilities producing energy will be privatized. This will mean that the State will only control the distribution aspect of Enemalta, rendering the country dependent on energy oligarchs.

Arguably, Malta will still be dependent on external sources of energy without the privatization of energy production, given that Malta has no gas resources of its own. But government’s plans will mean that our country will be dependent on a private company whose main aim is to make profit.

Of course, this might result in short-to-medium term economic and political gains, due to cheaper electricity bills for some years. But basically, the opportunity cost of this is Malta writing off its energy sovereignty.

I have strong doubts on whether this is strategically sound, especially when other alternatives exist.

For example, the State can still have control on energy production through Enemalta, entering agreements which permit a degree of flexibility. In such a scenario the interconnector to Europe – which permits more flexibility than privatization of energy production – can be considered as a back-up should the need arise.

The State should also increase efforts for renewable energy sources which in themselves can guarantee a greater degree of energy sovereignty. This path can also take place with the involvement of other governments and companies, whilst avoiding large-scale dependency paths.

Unfortunately, some critics of government’s plans are not stating that even a gas pipeline can render Malta dependent on energy oligarchs. And such dependence can have dangerous economic and political repercussions. In this regard, the current political and economic conflicts in Ukraine should serve as a timely reminder of the geopolitical dimension of energy. Energy policy is not only about technical and environmental factors: it is also about political economy.


On another note, the European Parliamentary election campaign has kicked off.

Disenchantment with anti-democratic policies such as Troika-imposed-austerity is having polarizing effects on economies and people’s quality of life – Greece being a clear case in point.

And that’s also why some are moving towards xenophobic Euroscepticism through the xenophobic Far Right.

But the call for another Europe, a social Europe that kick-starts the economy through increased public investment, should not be underestimated.

Perhaps this is why European surveys are showing that apart from the Socialist group (S&D) likely to become the largest group in the EP, the radical Left (GUE-NGL) is likely to upstage others and become the third largest group after the second-placed Popular Party (EPP).

In the meantime, in Malta, Xarabank has blown the whistle for the start of the electoral contest.

From what I am seeing so far, we have more of a beauty contest of competing populisms, a circus of rhetoric which has little to do with the European parliament.

Either way, and for different reasons, the European Parliament is relatively powerless on issues such as hunting, migration, construction and government performance. Yet, this is what we are hearing about from most politicians of all colours.

On the other hand, the European Parliament has relative power over the EU budget. I would expect progressive proposals that show how the EU budget can move away from funding programmes based on neoliberal conditions, towards a stronger social model.

Another Europe is possible, but are we discussing this in Malta? Being “Left” is not fashionable in beauty contests.

This blog appeared in Malta Today, 20th March 2014
Link: http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/comment/blogs/37103/from_energy_oligarchs_to_electoral_circuses#.Uyq6M4VWjWd