Richard North, 05/08/2004  

Malta has discovered to her cost yet another benefit of joining the EU. In the first summer since she joined, the number of cruise liners calling in to the Grand Harbour has plummeted. Passenger numbers are down to 24,342, compared with 45,809 in the same month last year- a 47 percent drop.

A port authority spokesman had no doubt as to the cause, blaming the removal of tax concessions which applied before Malta joined the EU and which have since been removed as being illegal under EU law.

With plenty of alternative non-EU destinations, such as North African ports - where tax concessions are available to the citizens of EU member states – the attractions of Malta are clearly not enough to tempt either the cruise companies or their passengers.

The Maltese may have cause to wonder why they sacrificed their independence, and the advantages of their unique island geography.

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