Malta Passes Measure To Expand Bailout Fund

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The parliament in Malta passed a controversial measure to expand Europe's bailout fund late on Monday. But to many young people in the tiny Mediterranean island nation, the question was never really in doubt. Despite all its economic problems, they see their future in the eurozone.


A move to expand the eurozone bailout fund fell short today. It came down to the last vote of the zone's 17 member nations, and Slovakia's parliament said no.


Today's news comes after a vote yesterday in support from the parliament of Malta. While the vote there was contentious, to many young people in the tiny Mediterranean island nation, the question was never really in doubt. NPR's Philip Reeves has that story.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Here, the eurozone crisis seems as remote as the moon. This is Malta, an ochre-colored cluster of islands in the middle of the Mediterranean. In the capital, Valletta, tourists wander through the old sandstone palaces and baroque churches and gather on a warm, windy afternoon to watch the dancing fountains. Malta's tiny, about a tenth of the size of Rhode Island. You can drive its widest part coast to coast in under an hour.

Malta's been an independent nation for less than half a century. Before that, pretty much everyone in the neighborhood took a turn at ruling it, from knights of the crusades to...

JESSICA FALZON: Romans, Arabs, Turks, Greeks, France, English. We took some of their cultures and habits and now, finally, we have our culture, you know.

REEVES: Jessica Falzon(ph) is sitting under some cedar trees sheltering from the sun. She and her friends are taking a break from classes at the University of Malta.

Malta only joined the euro in 2008, tying the fate of its 400,000 people to more than 300 million in a single currency zone now in deep trouble. The president of the European commissions just warned that Europe's young people face a baptism of fire, yet here and in some other parts of Europe, too, no one seems terribly worried.

DARCEL FALZON: I guess it hasn't affected Malta yet as much. Isn't that what they're saying on the news, other countries, you know, battling and so on?

REEVES: That's Darcel Falzon(ph), who's 22.

FALZON: And there's always that risk of not finding a job, ultimately, and Malta being such a small country, it's even worse. But I mean, all you can do is just study and then whatever happens will happen.

REEVES: Malta's parliament yesterday finally voted in favor of a much bigger European bailout fund. It also agreed that Malta can make extra loans to stricken Greece, a nation some 30 times its size. Falzon's philosophical about that, too, as she thinks right now, eurozone nations need to support each other.

FALZON: Because today, it's you. Tomorrow, it will be us who will need help, so I think it's a good thing.

REEVES: Step inside the university a few yards away and meet Professor Roderick Pace, an expert on the European Union. Pace's in doubt about the severity of the trouble now brewing.

RODERICK PACE: I think it is a very huge crisis, historically, which should not be underestimated.

REEVES: Pace thinks the solution is political.

PACE: The political leadership in Europe has to show that it has the heart, the strength, the leadership to lead Europe out of this crisis.

REEVES: That has not happened so far. The international community, including the US, is increasingly frustrated with Europe's leaders who are seen as posturing and dithering. Only yesterday, EU leaders decided to delay a potentially crucial summit by about a week.

It's widely believed, to survive, the eurozone must create a much deeper political union. That'll be at the expense of some of the sovereignty of its 17 nations. The people of these streets in Malta waited centuries for sovereignty. They think they'd hate parting with even the smallest grain of it, but Darcel Falzon thinks you can integrate politically without losing all that much.

FALZON: Nowadays, we're just the eurozone. I mean, the world has become a global village. Right? So it's the whole world who is actually moving in that direction. We stand as Malta. We remain Malta, I believe. I hope so.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Malta.

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