The Office of the Prime Minister is refusing a freedom of information request from The Shift for a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed with Libyan Prime Minister Hamid Dabaiba last June concerning a renewable energy electricity interconnector between the two countries.
A request for the preliminary agreement was refused, with the OPM claiming it qualifies for an exemption under Article 29(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.
The article states that FOI requests may be refused if the document requested “would cause damage to the security, defence, or international relations of Malta” or would reveal information “communicated in confidence” to or from a foreign government.
Details on the secret MoU were not given by the Minister of Energy, Miriam Dalli either, who refused to answer any questions sent by The Shift.
The Shift raised questions on whether the MoU made any binding commitments with Libya for energy supply, the source of the referenced renewable energy, and the justification for the agreement given the government has repeatedly claimed Malta’s energy problems lie in distribution rather than generation.
The MoU was signed for Libya’s “strong potential to generate renewable energy”, given that the country does not currently produce renewable energy at scale. According to African Energy Journal ESI-Africa, the energy would likely consist of a technology known as green hydrogen, which is energy stored in the form of hydrogen produced by other renewable sources.
Over the past years, Malta has strengthened its relationship with Libya on multiple fronts, with Abela’s June bilateral meeting reaffirming common positions on further trade between the two countries and increased migrant pushbacks.
Last April, a UN Libya mission reported on how Libyan detention centres subject returned migrants to continued ill-treatment, torture and coercive sexual practices in exchange for food and water.
Besides its ties with the Libyan government, Malta has also established a cosy relationship with the Libyan Haftar Militia. At the end of May, a high-level Maltese delegation met with Khalif Haftar to discuss “security challenges that both Malta and Libya are facing in the region, particularly that of irregular migration, and it was agreed to extend engagement with the Navy and Coast Guard.”
Libyan vessels have since conducted naval drills alongside the Armed Forces of Malta, with the AFM training the Libyan coast guard in conducting pushbacks.