Hostage drama on the high seas

Malta is holding 57 people hostage on the high seas to make some sort of point to Europe.

They’re floating around 13 nautical miles offshore, in a Captain Morgan coastal ferry which isn’t designed for open water. It was licensed to navigate up to four nautical miles from land. But I guess that’s just a technicality — as long as the sea remains calm.

It’s a manufactured standoff using a boat they hired themselves, staffed by who knows what sort of unqualified ‘security’, which they refuse to let return to port unless the European Union agrees to take the people off this Malta-registered government-hired ship that’s menacing its own shores.

In an added dose of unintentional irony, Captain Henry Morgan was one of history’s most notable privateers, scourge of the Spanish Main, sacker of Panama City and later governor of Jamaica.

While Malta is doing everything it can to lay claim to being Pirate Island, it’s become the scourge of its own reputation more than anything else.

Let’s expose the elephant in the room straight away.

The European Union’s response to the migrant crisis has been inconsistent, vaguely idealistic, and largely ineffective. And they seem either unwilling or unable to improve on that history of mismanagement.

I can understand why people in Malta are frustrated. When it comes to dealing with incursions to the Union’s external borders, the Union as a whole must take responsibility, and support those countries on the front line, including Greece, Italy and Malta. These countries are taking the brunt of the pressure while other countries bicker over how many migrants they’re willing to resettle.

The problem will continue until Member States agree on how to handle illegal economic migrants who jump the queue and storm the borders rather than attempt to migrate through existing legal mechanisms.

It isn’t fair, and Malta has legitimate grievances.

But watching people drown, or holding them hostage on a tour boat, or hiring fishing boats owned by alleged cigarette smugglers to pluck them out of the water and send them back to the failed State next door is only proving one point: the amorality of the Maltese government.

Someone should probably tell the Foreign Minister this cunning plan is just making things worse. Unfortunately, he’s busy causing drama of his own.

Evarist Bartolo sent shock waves through European diplomatic channels last weekend when he took to Facebook, threatening to take his ball and go home if the EU doesn’t take the latest batch of migrants off Malta’s hands.

Oh, wait…

I doubt if anyone from these governments even knows who Bartolo is, beyond his disastrous DW Conflict Zone interview, where he explained away Malta’s failure to prosecute a single case of high level corruption by saying: “The rule of family and the rule of friends is stronger than the rule of law.”

The Minister went on to play the “big country, small country” card in subsequent Facebook posts, venting on social media like a teenager rather than using diplomatic channels. “The strong do what they want,” he wrote. “The weak have to bow to their will.”

Try swapping ‘strong’ for ‘corrupt’ and you’ll have an accurate picture of Malta under Muscat — the very government Bartolo benefitted from and supported.

Bartolo went on to say, “The weak find many who will preach to them. Those who investigate them. Those who accuse them. Those who condemn them. They find far fewer who will help them.”

I suggest he try asking ‘the strong’ to help prosecute high level corruption in Malta. He would find the solidarity he claims to be looking for.

Holding people hostage, making secret pushback deals with Libya, and hiring pirates to do your dirty work only reinforces the impression the rest of Europe already has about the untrustworthy State on its southern fringes.

You see, Malta has a serious image problem.

Try looking at the country from the perspective of continental Europe. Malta looks an awful lot like someone who bluffed their way into a club to get the cash subsidy, saying, “Yes, yes, yes, we’ll change all those things.” But once voted in, did nothing to change them at all.

Hunters and trappers are poaching migratory birds both during and outside of hunting seasons, despite Malta’s endless promises to rein them in. But rather than do anything to put a stop to it, the government buys votes by turning a blind eye to endless excesses.

When Malta’s Satabank and Pilatus Bank were caught laundering massive amounts of money through the European banking system, Malta did nothing. And even after they were forced to close, there’s no sign of prosecution in the country where the crimes took place.

Banking aside, Malta is siphoning tax revenues from other Member States by offering empty registered offices to companies that do nothing on the island except pretend to work here.

And for those with an actual physical presence, would a single gaming company locate in Malta if it wasn’t a back door into the EU for their money? Why, when they have all those Caribbean islands to choose from?

The Venice Commission made reams of recommendations to help Malta update its laws to the standards of western democracy — all changes that should have taken place when Malta joined the EU.

Unfortunately, no solution that involves giving up the Prime Minister’s power is acceptable. How could it be? Joseph Muscat and friends would be unprotected, and we can’t have that.

And perhaps most insulting of all, Malta peddles EU passports to anyone who comes along with the cash. And before you cite allegedly stringent due diligence procedures, have a look at the criminals who already “slipped through”.

Malta joined a club and started selling membership to that club out the back door, pocketing the money and sending oligarchs and assorted criminals to live in other member’s countries.

So I wouldn’t expect much sympathy from the EU if I were you.

Any sensible person in their shoes would be looking for a way to kick Malta out of the club because there’s no indication whatsoever that it will change its ways. Using migrants as hostages only reinforces that view.

Muscat’s inner circle reminds me of a bloated tick. Once latched on, impossible to get rid of. It’s ironic when you recall his dubious claim to fame before he was made Labour Party Leader was a failed campaign to stop Malta from joining the EU.

Never mind what his father said. Robert ‘his own man’ Abela is still clearly taking instructions from il-Kink, with a page torn out of the Putin-Medvedev revolving door playbook. This entire farce seems to fit their scope.


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