MEPs investigating the rule of law in Malta expressed their surprise that minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s éminence grise Keith Schembri are still in power despite their secret offshore dealings.
Following her return to Malta, Portuguese socialist MEP Ana Gomes said “We would have expected that members of the government who have been exposed as corrupt, as liars, including to us, would not be in office anymore.”
She added that last year’s election “does not clean the record of corruption” adding that “questions of corruption and criminality have to be addressed by police and the judiciary, as well as by the political establishment.”
Underlining the shady deals signed by the Labour administration, including the hospital privatisation deal, the agreement to buy overpriced gas from Azerbaijan’s State-owned oil company SOCAR and the cash-for-passports programme, Gomes also expressed scepticism about government’s plan to make Malta a ‘blockchain paradise.’
Moreover, German Green MEP Sven Geigold warned that “Malta risks its economic future because of complacency.”
Such conclusions are only reached by assuming that Malta is like any other European country. But evidently it is not.
When faced with criticism from abroad, especially by MEPs and EU institutions, the Labour government’s standard reply goes something like ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ and this is often followed by “you have a fundamental lack of understanding of how things work in Malta” or ‘you are being misled by the opposition’.
Then there’s my personal favourite ‘you are jealous of Malta’s success’ reply.
Surely, such replies smack of arrogance verging on nationalist paranoia. But I must admit that foreign critics such as Gomes and Geigold do have unrealistic expectations.
Comparisons are odious and while there has never been any doubt that Malta is no Germany or Sweden, MEPs must keep in mind that Malta is no Italy or Spain either.
Malta is incomparable to most other European states. It must be the size, or the climate or maybe even a superior gene pool dating back to the days when Malta was at the pinnacle of civilisation and part of Atlantis.
But let’s not get carried away and look at what is happening around Europe. This week in Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was ousted after his Party was found to have profited from a huge corruption racket. The president of Madrid’s regional government also resigned after video footage emerged of her apparently being caught stealing two tubs of face cream seven years ago.
These are the standards upheld by Gomes and Geigold. But not Malta, where even the most corrupt get away scot-free.
At the height of political tensions in the 70s and 80s, 15-year-old Karin Grech was killed by a letter bomb, Raymond Caruana was killed in a PN club in Ghaxaq and Pietru Pawl Busuttil was framed. Yet, nobody was ever charged, let alone found guilty, of these crimes and no action whatsoever was taken against police officers who used violence against citizens.
The easiest thing to do is brand all politicians corrupt and place the blame squarely at their feet. But politicians do not end up in parliament or in in positions of power out of the blue.
They are elected by the people and if voters, election after election, return corrupt politicians to power it only means one thing: People do not give a damn about corruption. Most see it as an opportunity not as a plague.
Gomes, Geigold and other MEPs investigating the rule of law in Malta should lower their expectations. This is not Atlantis (obviously). This is not Germany or Portugal. This is Malta, a country created by the Maltese in their own image with a little help from their ex colonial masters and neighbouring countries.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat often reminds us that he has made Malta the best in Europe. And we, the Maltese, have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even corruption is tolerated and turned into an opportunity.