Roberta Metsola and Joseph Muscat are two of the most well-known of a new generation of young politicians.
From 2016 to 2017, Roberta Metsola was part of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion, which investigated the Panama Papers revelations, and other tax avoidance schemes more broadly and more in detail.
In December 2019, a fact-finding European Parliament delegation, including members from Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee, was in Malta for two days of meetings.
Roberta Metsola was part of the delegation. The delegation met disgraced Joseph Muscat still at Castille a few days before his official resignation. When the delegation came out of the meeting, all MEPs looked quite disappointed.
Except for one of them, Roberta Metsola, who was representing the EPP as its rule of law spokesperson. Outside Castille, she described Muscat as adamant against calls for his immediate resignation.
But her words were accompanied by one defiant act – refusing to shake the disgraced prime minister’s hand.
As Joseph Muscat walked into the room and approached her to shake hands before the meeting started, Metsola turned her head the other way and refused to shake his hand. “If he thinks he can try to brush off responsibility, he is sorely mistaken. Get out now, before you do irreparable damage to the country,” she wrote.
The photo went viral on social media. It was one of the most iconic photos of the year, and it still is. Some time has passed since that particular moment.
Since then, Muscat resigned in shame and has been replaced at the helm of the Labour Party and government by Robert Abela. He has also resigned from being a Member of Parliament.
His political career was over, in disgrace.
Roberta Metsola’s political career has meanwhile advanced remarkably. She became the First Vice-President of the European Parliament, being the first Maltese to ever occupy that position. In November 2021, she was chosen as the EPP’s candidate for the European Parliament’s presidential election after the early demise of Italian Davide Sassoli. EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber told the media soon after the vote that Metsola would be the youngest president in the history of the European Parliament.
He referred to Metsola as “a very convincing candidate for the other groups”.
On her 43rd birthday, 18 January 2022, Roberta was elected as President of the European Parliament in the first round of voting, getting an absolute majority of 458 votes out of 690 cast. On her election, Metsola became the youngest-ever EP President and the first Maltese politician to hold such an esteemed office.
Since her appointment as EP President Roberta Metsola has received a number of prestigious awards.
She was presented with the Donne a Innovazione Award by TuttiMedia an institution dealing with communications and changes brought by new technology. She was also awarded the King David Award by the European Jewish Association in recognition of her support to the Jewish Community in Europe.
Last January, Metsola received the Woman of The Year Award by Nadia Calvino, the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain. The award, honouring ‘extraordinary and inspirational women,’ was presented to President Metsola for the work she carried out while leading the European Parliament, particularly for her actions regarding the war in Ukraine, for her commitment to the fight against corruption and for her fierce defence of European values.
And on the other hand, there is Joseph Muscat
Despite his vehement opposition to Malta’s entry into the European Union, Joseph Muscat contested and was elected as MEP to the European Parliament in the 2004 European Parliament election.
Apart from sitting on some committees, his contribution to the European Parliament was scarce, apart from a scene he made when there was no Maltese translator present. Muscat stamped his feet and did not deliver his two-minute speech.
Joseph Muscat was elected leader of the Labour Party in March 2008 after the resignation of Alfred Sant after yet another Labour defeat at the elections.
Later, in June, he addressed a mass rally at the PL headquarters where a number of former Labour Members of Parliament were present. Among them were Salvu Sant, Lino Debono, Bertu Pace, Joe Brincat, Joe Micallef Stafrace, Joe Grima, Reno Calleja and Philip Muscat.
Muscat resigned from the European Parliament in September 2008 to take his seat in the Maltese Parliament as Leader of the Opposition.
In 2013, after a millionaire electoral campaign, Labour was elected to power, and Joseph Muscat was sworn in as prime minister. What happened during his tenure is known to all, not only in Malta.
One journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, uncovered all the sleaze that was going on and started publishing her blog ‘Running Commentary.’ Her daily blog was read by hundreds of thousands, both locally and abroad.
This irked Joseph and friends, and they started systematic personal attacks by a number of state-paid trolls. She was followed and hounded by ‘tagħna lkollers’.
Ministers and pro-government ‘journalists’ joined the fray by instituting a number of libel cases against her. Still, she did not stop even when Chris Cardona froze her assets after she reported his “ħaqq alla kemm hu kiesaħ l-ilma” visit to the FKK Acapulco brothel in Verbert, Germany while on official business.
It was the first case of a Maltese politician attempting to use SLAPP against a journalist in order to silence her. Chris Cardona conceded the libel case after Daphne Caruana Galizia obtained triangulation data which was about to show his exact position on the date in question.
Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated in a car bomb attack in October 2017.
Around the 2019 European Parliament elections, Joseph Muscat was touted for a European Union post, possibly as the successor to Donald Tusk as head of the European Council.
Kurt Farrugia, his communications manager, was sure that he was going to make it. He was wrong, quite wrong.
Joseph Muscat’s bid failed miserably because his image had been ruined by the Caruana Galizia murder and the large number of reports of European institutions warning about the wearing away of the rule of law in Malta.
In late November 2019, Muscat’s premiership was rocked by the arrest of prominent businessman Yorgen Fenech and the implication of Muscat’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Towards the end of November 2019, after a six-hour cabinet meeting, Muscat informed the President of Malta George Vella that he would soon be resigning his duties as Prime Minister.
It was around this time that Joseph Muscat hit his political rock bottom.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project named Muscat “Man of the Year in Organized Crime and Corruption” for 2019.
That was the only award conferred to Joseph Muscat. That is his legacy, and that is how he is going to be remembered in the history of Maltese politics.
Yet, even now, four years after his resignation, his name, and that of his closest sidekicks, still crops up whenever there is a whiff of corruption in Malta.
The OCCRP together with The Shift and The Times of Malta, have analysed Muscat’s income declarations in a corruption inquiry related to the Vitals and Steward hospital deal.
Another ‘strange’ consultancy given to Joseph Muscat surfaced last Sunday. It was revealed that Joseph was handed a rewarding €11,800 monthly ‘parrot’ consultancy for a loss-making exotic bird company owned by casino tycoon Johann Schembri.
Strangely, this happened a few months after he masterminded a ‘disgraceful’ government deal involving the extension of the property lease for the Dragonara Casino by 64 years without the issue of a public tender. The deal saved the Dragonara Casino millions of euros.
According to financial experts, consultancy agreements are frequently used as a tool to hide the real reasons behind certain transactions.
Assuming that he still reigns supreme as emperor of our fair island, Muscat has unleashed an unprecedented attack on the judiciary in particular on the magistrate investigating him.
Joseph Muscat also requested that she recuse herself. She flatly refused, putting him in his place.
But his charade continues, maybe also comforted by the fact that Emmanuel Cuschieri is standing by his side.