Having joined the European Union in 2004, Malta is one of the youngest countries among the 27 EU Member States. Liechtenstein, in turn, is the only European micro-state closely cooperating within the framework of European integration – it is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). Apart from the idea of European integration, these two countries are similar in terms of their small population and size, but above all, by a very similar, at least at first sight, parliamentary scene.
Author: Marcin Łukaszewski
Outline of the political scene in Malta
The Maltese political scene is very much like the British one in some respects. As regards the Great Britain, despite its majority voting system, representatives of other several groups are elected to the House of Commons in addition to the members of the two main groups (the Tories and the Labour Party). In the case of Malta, the parliament consists of, almost exclusively, members of two parties, as a result of the proportional electoral system using the STV mechanism. This is surprising as the British system is commonly regarded as the one leading to polarization of the political scene while the STV as the one allowing for the appearance of parties other than the two dominant ones in the parliament.
In the parliamentary elections following the 1962 voting (when there were as many as five parties in the parliament), no party other than the nationalists and the Labour managed to win a seat. What proves the fact that the country’s political scene is petrified in the sense of being dominated by two blocs is the election of two representatives of the newly established Democratic Party as late as 2017. Yet, this was possible mainly thanks to the Nationalist Party, which included representatives of this party on its lists of candidates.
The reference to the British system is justified as the government in London has been Malta’s decision-making center for a century and a half. Although a constitutional referendum was held in 1964, it is worth noting that taking part in it had, in fact, been a political declaration of support for Malta’s independence. In 1974, after a 10-year-long union with the British monarchy, Malta became a republic.
The two main political factions, the Nationalist Party (Partit Nazzjonalista, PN) and the Malta Labour Party (Partit tal-Haddiema, MLP), played a major role in achieving the country’s independence. However, both blocs had a different idea on how to win it. In the last 50 years, other parties have been taking part in the elections, but none of them has gained significant public support,. This was caused by the fact that the political scene has been controlled by mainly by the Labour and nationalists.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the Labour was perceived as the party of the secularized part of society, workers and trade unions (which also characterizes its British counterpart). On the other hand, the nationalists represented a part of Maltese society which positively regarded the role of the Catholic Church. This state of affairs represented the Maltese political dispute and reality quite accurately. The MLP had been founded almost 100 years ago and its members exercised power in institutions established by the British in the 1920s and immediately after World War II. However, as a result of the demands to integrate Malta with Britain, the PN seized power.
Outline of the political scene in Liechtenstein
The two main political parties in Liechtenstein were formed at the end of World War I. The entire political scene in the interwar period was characterized by wo different visions for the development of the Principality, proposed by these blocs. Consequently, the representatives of these factions won all parliamentary seats. The Christian-Social People’s Party (Christlich-Soziale Volkspartei, VP, later the Patriotic Union) and the Progressive Citizens’ Party (Fortschrittliche Bürgerpartei in Liechtenstein, FBP) were founded in the same year. Surprisingly enough, initially, the differences between the blocs were not ideological since they were both right-wing. However, the parties had a different approach to the pace of changes and the search for a new strategic partner, following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in World War I. The People’s Party demanded democratic reforms, support for workers, and focusing foreign policy of its western neighbor. The FBP established its policy largely on the basis of the relationship with the Catholic Church and support for the monarchy. It is worth emphasizing how fundamental were changes in Liechtenstein after World War I. The state, so closely connected to the Austrian monarchy since gaining independence, later entirely refocused its foreign policy from the East to the West, establishing political relations with a new strategic partner – Switzerland in the 1920s.
Some new political parties appeared in the election following World War II. Yet, until 1993, none of them managed to win a single parliamentary seat – the VU-FBP coalition gained them all. From that year on, the two parties were joined by the Free List (Freie Liste,FL), which offered an alternative to the promonarchic, Christian-democratic, and conservative VU and FBP, by advocating, among others, a limited role of the prince. The Free List maintained or increased the number of seats in the parliament in each successive election. However, in 2013 and 2017, the fourth party – The Independents (Die Unabhängigen, DU) appeared in parliament alongside these three groups.
While the FBP and VU are often described as conservative or Christian-democratic the FL seems to be more of a social democratic and ecological party, considering its demands. On the other hand, the Independents are considered to be moderately Eurosceptic party and rather a right-wing one, which is crucial for this analysis. They are often considered to be a group of populist politicians, as stated by some commentators. The above justifies the clear objections of the authorities of this party to the plans of EU decision-makers to relocate refugees.
The absence of parliamentary opposition between 1938 and 1997 seems to be a phenomenon of the Liechtenstein political scene. For more than half a century, all parliamentary seats were belonged to two main parties that formed a joint government. The establishment of the FBP-VU coalition was influenced by, among others, external threats (for instance Hitler’s aggressive policy and the occupation of neighboring Austria). Additionally, ruling jointly proved to be an excellent idea –this cooperation was continued for nearly 60 years. Throughout this period each of the parties formed a the single-party government – first the Patriotic Union and then the FBP. After 2005, the FBP-VU coalition was reinstated. The 2017 election turned out to be the worst for the two main factions in terms of number of seats gained in the parliament (they won a total of 17 seats). However, that election was a great success of the opposition, which claimed as many as eight seats.
The idea of European integration in the demands of political parties in Malta
Surprisingly, unlike in a large number of similar cases in Europe, where right-wing parties were quite skeptical about strengthening European integration (or possible EU membership), and left-wing parties supported this idea, in Malta, right-wing PN was in favor of strengthening cooperation with European communities, while the MLP was against it. However, such a situation is understandable if we recall the above-mentioned historical background and outline of the political scene., The reluctance of the nationalists to integrate Malta into the United Kingdom was justified by their perception on the British as those who did not allow the sovereign rule of the Maltese and established a form of a royal colony in Malta, which existed until 1964. The nationalists were gaining support thanks to this position and exercised power within autonomous bodies at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. On the other hand, the Labour Party, which ruled Malta immediately after World War II, advocated close cooperation with the British in its manifesto on foreign policy, recognizing the positive aspects of good relations with a strong overseas partner. Because of the reluctance of the Maltese to such a vision of foreign policy, the support of the clergy who were urging people not to vote for the MLP, as well as the ideas of gradually achieving greater autonomy (and ultimately independence), the nationalists remained in power until 1971. Undoubtedly, one of their greatest achievements was the agreement that recognized independence of the island.
What seems to be crucial for this analysis is the approach to European integration. The members of the Labour Party, after abandoning the idea of close cooperation with London and noticing the reluctance of their voters to former priorities in foreign policy, have reoriented their assumptions. In the absence of a key partner, they began to advocate the government’s neutrality policy (in 1987, Malta became a neutral state). This resulted in clear opposition to European integration. Additionally, the Labour government abandoned the efforts of the nationalists to strengthen cooperation with Western Europe and decided to withdraw Malta from the NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. It is clear that the two groups had very different demands, which led to quite dissimilar foreign policies. Thus, three years after, following the victory of the nationalists in the 1987 elections, the government began the procedure of obtaining membership in the European Union. The results of the 1992 elections did not the governing party, which allowed to continue the pro-integration policy. However, already in the subsequent elections (1996), the Labour returned to power – in the same year it blocked the EU membership application. Only two years later, another parliamentary election was held – the PN returned to power. The consequences of this election seem obvious – the government requested the membership negotiations to start again.
Two key ballots were held in spring 2003 – a non-binding accession referendum (March 8) and a parliamentary election (April 12). Both of them were successful for the PN, which, as it can be inferred from the above, was in favor of Malta’s accession to the EU. In their campaign, the nationalists highlighted mainly the financial benefits of the EU membership (including the possibility of obtaining funds for the renovation of roads) but also pointed out that accession is an opportunity for such a small country, especially in the era of globalization. On the other hand, the MLP drew attention to the risk of losing (limiting) the recently regained sovereignty. The trade unions were also against integration and, along with the Labour, expressed concern about losing jobs. Eventually, despite the Labour’s call to boycott the election and, later,cast invalid or empty votes, the majority of the citizens were in favor of Malta’s EU membership. The result of the referendum did not initially change the attitude of the Labour Party leadership. Yet, after the accession process was over, it accepted the decision of the Maltese people and took part in elections to the European Parliament.
The idea of European integration in the demands of political parties in Liechtenstein
As already mentioned, after World War I, the foreign policies of the two main factions in Liechtenstein were dissimilar. While the FBP was reluctant to abandon relations with Austria, the VU was in favor of rapprochement with its western neighbor. The defeat of the Central Powers sealed the decision to reorient foreign policy. The stabilized internal situation and the aforementioned choice of a new strategic partner allowed Liechtenstein to apply for membership in the League of Nations, which was done through the Swiss authorities. However, this request was rejected.
It was only in the 1990s that, largely independently, Liechtenstein became clearly involved in the process of European integration. The small territory and population, thus limited resources, as well as the bond with Switzerland, made it impossible to join the structures of the Bloc quickly. Liechtenstein was included in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960, as a state bound by the customs union with Switzerland. Yet, it must be emphasized that Liechtenstein did not become a member state of this organization until 1991. After the Swiss rejected the possibility of joining the newly created EEA in a referendum, Liechtenstein continued its willingness to become a member of this body (the first referendum was held in 1991 and the second one four years later). Thus, in 1995, Liechtenstein became the first of the European micro-states to be involved in the European integration process to such an extent. The next step included accession to the Schengen Area. The decision to do so was made in 2008, and already at the end of 2011 the Principality became the 26th member of the Area.
Focusing on the approach of parliamentary political parties to the foreign policy, it should be emphasized that the constitutional system of Liechtenstein comprises instruments of direct democracy, which could be used to stop decisions made in the parliament. Additionally, the Prince, can also block nearly all parliamentary decisions. This is why reaching a compromise among all parties in parliament plays such an important role in Liechtenstein.
It should be noted that before the Independents (DU) entered the political scene, none of the three factions was Eurosceptic.This unanimity of beliefs certainly allowed government to conduct a firm policy of the and enabled the opposition, assembled in the Free List, to revise its actions. . However, it should be noted that the members of the FL gained seats in the parliament shortly before the second referendum on EEA affiliation. The outcome of the referendum was clearly influenced by the members of the two main parties and the monarch, who supported the idea of becoming an EU member.
A difference, which was not explicitly mentioned above, is the matter of policymaking by parliamentary groups. At this point, it is worth referring to a well-known division into majoritarian and “consensus” democracies by A. Lijphart. Without a detailed analysis of the democracies of both countries, one is able to notice elements of both of these models. The Maltese political scene clearly resembles the British one, where within the framework of a two-party system, the victory of one of the groups means conducting a policy postulated by that party in pre-election manifestos. A glaring example of this is the subject of European integration, which seems to be a cross-party issue that should be solved through consensus. The Maltese reality was quite different. The change of the parliamentary majority immediately caused a radical reversal of the EU integration process (the Labour Party) or a return to it (the Nationalist Party). This state of affairs caused great instability in foreign policy. A somewhat different situation could be observed in the case of Liechtenstein. There, despite the possibilities of building one-party cabinets (with a few exceptions), consensus-based two-party governments were generally established. As a result of including another party in political decision-making, the validity of the decisions made in such a way are less likely to be questioned. Simultaneously, a certain policy must take into account not only the interests of a given party but also the ones of its coalition partner. Thus, the decisions may constitute a certain form of a nationwide agreement, which is advantageous. However, the disadvantage of such a system is the lack of a constructive critic – the opposition – which has appeared in the politics of Liechtenstein relatively recently.
The analysis of the party systems, political practice, and demands of the parliamentary groups of both countries also provides the subsequent conclusions. The two main Maltese political factions are a phenomenon in terms of their position on European integration. The right-wing party (PN) supports integration, while the left-wing party (MLP) has been against it for many decades. As a result, every time the MLP obtained a parliamentary majority, the accession process was halted. Only after the accession of the Republic to this organization, the MLP accepted (or perhaps dealt with) the will expressed in the referendum. The examples of both countries indicate two, almost extremely different visions for the resolution of priorities in foreign policy. On the one hand, external affairs may become a major dispute which, if won by one of the parties, might lead to an overturn of the formerly pursued policy (and not only its modification). This is evidenced by the MLP’s approach to the European integration process and Malta’s place in it. In the case of Liechtenstein, we are dealing with a very stable implementation of foreign policy. It is a result of involving the party that did not win the election in the decision-making process. Consequently, the risk of criticism from a strong parliamentary opposition is eliminated.
During100 years of existence of the two main factions, for the vast majority of time the Liechtenstein political scene only supported the foreign policy of the government. This is due to a simple reason – the coalition government consisted of all parliamentary groups (i.e., both of them). There were two exceptions to this rule. The first of them was the initial period when the two parties saw the future relations with their neighbors differently. The second one regards the last few years, when the Independents, a moderately Eurosceptic group, joined the political stage.
In the case of both countries, the most significant notion in foreign policy was not European integration. Instead, it concerned the need to highlight one’s subjectivity while simultaneously maintaining a strategic partnership (and thus political security) with the United Kingdom (in the case of Malta) and Switzerland (in the case of Liechtenstein).
In Liechtenstein and Malta, both of which are small countries, a kind of resistance to closer cooperation within the framework of European integration (or perhaps satisfaction with the current status quo and reluctance to change it) seems to be connected with fears of losing or blurring national identity and sovereignty within the common European project. Certainly, this defiance has a different intensity in both countries since the two pairs of the main blocs in Liechtenstein and Malta are pro-integration. However, this attitude can hardly be called a full commitment at the same time.
 There were eight of them after the last parliamentary election.
 Similar conclusions are drawn by A. Dańda.
Dańda, A. (2010) System partyjny Malty, in: Kosowska-Gąstoł, B. (Ed.), Systemy partyjne państw Unii Europejskiej, Cracow, p. 234.
 This election coalition was established in 2017 and dissolved later that year.
 Although Malta was established as a sovereign state with the British monarch as its head of state in 1964, the symbolic end of Malta’s exit from the influence of the British government took place in 1974.
 The first part of the name was removed in 2008.
 This will be discussed further in the article.
 In addition to the independent candidates, since 1971, the following parties, among others, took part in the elections: the Progressive Constitutionalist Party, the Communist Party of Malta, and the Democratic Alternative. The latter took part in every election since 1992. However, it does not pose a threat to the main blocs because it received only several thousand votes (compared to more than 100,000 votes for each of the other two parties).
 In 1936, the People’s Party merged with the Liechtenstein Homeland Service, which had been established three years earlier, to form the Patriotic Union (Vaterländische Union).
 Marxer, W. (2010), Liechtenstein, in: Nohlen, D., & Stöver, P. (Eds.), Elections in Europe. A Data Handbook, Baden-Baden, p. 1157.
 During the last parliamentary term, there was a split within the Independent, which resulted in the creation of a new party in 2018 – the Democrats for Liechtenstein (Demokraten pro Liechtenstein), bringing together three former DU members.
 The Free List – three, the Independents – five.
 Dańda, A. (2010), ibid., p. 237.
 It is worth noting that even the total number of votes against membership (123,628) and invalid or empty votes (3,911) did not exceed the number of votes for integration (143,094). Just over 90% of those eligible to vote took part in the election.
 Interestingly enough, they won the election (out of five MEPs in total, three were claimed by the Labour and the remaining two by the nationalists). In subsequent elections to the European Parliament, the result was identical. In 2014 the total number of seats increased to six (the seats were divided equally between the two groups). In the last election, the Labour took away one seat from the nationalists, claiming four in total. Currently, MEPs of the Labour Party belong to the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) while the MEPs of the Nationalist Party are a part of the European People’s Party (EPP), both of which are pro-integration factions of the European Parliament.
 Koźbiał, K. (2012), Europejskie mikropaństwa w procesie integracji europejskiej. Przykład Liechtensteinu, in Czubik, P., & Mach, Z. (Eds.), Hereditas Mercaturae. Księga pamiątkowa dedykowana świętej pamięci profesorowi Stanisławowi Miklaszewskiemu, Cracow, pp. 21–23.
 Frommelt, C., & Gstöhl, S. (2011), Liechtenstein and the EEA: the Europeanization of a (very) small state, p. 9 https://www.liechtenstein- institut.li/application/files/9515/7435/1176/Liechtenstein-and-the-EEA.pdf.
 Ibid., p. 19.
 In Europe, typically, the left-wing parties support European integration (French socialists, Polish Democratic Left Alliance, Hungarian social democrats) while the right-wing parties show reserve or skepticism towards it (French nationalists, Polish Law and Justice, Hungarian Fidesz, British Conservative Party).
 And this is despite the opportunities that the membership in the European Union offers to such small states. This is indicated by J. Corbett and W. Veenendaal.
Corbett, J., & Veenendaal, W. (2018), Democracy in small states. Persisting against all odds, Oxford, p. 140.
 These countries generally include Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican.