Eyebrows are being raised in diplomatic circles, particularly among EU representatives, as former Labour MEP Joseph Cuschieri has been reappointed to his diplomatic post as Malta’s ambassador to Greece, just a few weeks after he was fired from his post as ambassador to Rome, The Shift can reveal.
At the end of 2019, during the dying days of the Labour government headed by disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Cuschieri was given a diplomatic ‘promotion’ to Malta’s embassy in Rome, one of the country’s most prestigious and busy diplomatic representations.
Although many senior diplomats had advised against this nomination, as Cuschieri was deemed unsuitable, particularly due to Malta’s strong relations with Italy, then-Foreign Minister Carmelo Abela had bowed to pressure from Castille.
However, following a change in government, after Robert Abela surprisingly defeated Chris Fearne to become Prime Minister, Cuschieri found himself without a job.
Newly installed Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo recalled Cuschieri and replaced him with a more appropriate diplomat in Rome.
At the time, no reason was given by the government for Cuschieri’s sudden recall. However, the Foreign Ministry had stated that Cuschieri would instead “be providing services to the Minister, as and where required of him in due course”.
Information leaked to the mainstream media by the government had spun stories that Cuschieri had “muscled in” his way to his Rome posting and that he had travelled to the Eternal City without prior authorisation.
Diplomatic sources who spoke to The Shift refuted these claims, stating that Cuschieri’s posting to Italy was approved by the then-Foreign Minister and all was done according to protocol:
“It was only a change of administration which quickly realised that Cuschieri’s appointment to Rome was a massive diplomatic blunder, as he did not possess the necessary skills commensurate to such a sensitive diplomatic mission.”
Consequently, political pressure on the new Foreign Minister to find a “face-saving solution” for Cuschieri has now been found.
In an unprecedented U-turn, the Foreign Ministry has re-nominated Cuschieri to take up the post in Athens, only a few weeks after he was recalled.
Senior diplomats told The Shift that “the re-appointment of an ambassador to the same post he had occupied only a few weeks earlier is unheard of and surely a first for Malta’s Foreign Office”.
The Greek Foreign Ministry, which had to re-process the diplomatic agreement to accept Cuschieri’s nomination, was also surprised to receive the formal note with the ‘new’ Maltese nominee.
Asked to explain this sudden reversal, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry only confirmed that Cuschieri has returned to Athens.
Under normal diplomatic provisions, Maltese ambassadors are rotated after three years.
The former Labour MEP, who had no past diplomatic experience, was made ambassador to Greece in 2015. He had vacated his parliamentary seat for Muscat in 2008.