Bumpy ride expected for Zammit Lewis en route to Luxembourg

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s nominee for the post of Judge at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg is not yet set in stone, as Edward Zammit Lewis is expected to have a bumpy ride when he faces an internal EU committee evaluating whether he is fit for the job.

Apart from his lack of experience in the judiciary and his doubtful command of the French language, an important aspect of the evaluation process, the so-called Article 255 Committee – made up of experts, usually former ECJ Judges – will have a long list of grievances to evaluate before they issue their recommendation.

According to EU rules, while member states have the right to propose their nominees for the post of EU Judge, it is up to the Article 255 Committee to evaluate them.

At the end of the process, the Committee will issue its recommendation to the EU Council, made up of Justice Ministers, to endorse or reject a nominee.

A precedent already set

Although member states rarely squabble over nominees for the ECJ under normal circumstances, this isn’t the first time that nominees proposed by Malta have been shot down.

Malta has already had a negative experience in this area. In 2011, the Article 255 Committee rejected a government nominee, Judge Joseph Filletti, despite his 32-year experience as a Judge in the Maltese courts.

Filletti did not meet the requirements of an EU Judge and was rejected by the EU Council.

Instead, he was later appointed Malta’s Ambassador to the Council of Europe – a move by the Maltese government to soften the humiliation.

In 2016, then Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri was also refused by the same committee. His refusal was due to his lack of knowledge of European legislation. He served as Chief Justice in Malta until his retirement in 2018.

A very risky decision by Robert Abela

Although the nomination is not surprising, it was an open secret that relations between Zammit Lewis and Abela soured, particularly since he was demoted to a backbencher after the 2022 elections.

EU sources told The Shift that Abela’s attempt to eliminate a loyal soldier of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat was “very risky”.

Zammit Lewis’s nomination for the six-year post, accompanied by a lucrative salary and perks of some €25,000 a month, comes with heavy baggage that might tip the scales against him at the ECJ committee.

One of many of Zammit Lewis’ public posts that could prove embarrassing.

Synonymous with the offensive language he used against his own supporters, calling them “Ġaħan” in a message to Yorgen Fenech, accused of commissioning the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Zammit Lewis is also deemed to be a part of the Muscat clique, associated with years of corruption and complete disregard for the rule of law.

A childhood friend of Muscat, who he has known since his school days at St Aloysius College, Zammit Lewis was a member of Muscat’s ‘Kitchen Cabinet’, as former finance minister Edward Scicluna had dubbed Muscat’s inner circle.

Zammit Lewis, when a member of Cabinet, used to accompany Muscat on family holidays, including a 2017 stay at a Hilton Hotel in France, paid for by his close friend Yorgen Fenech.

(From left) Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, Michelle Muscat, Joseph Muscat, Diane Izzo, Karl Izzo, and Elena Farrugia, the wife of Zammit Lewis.

(From left) Edward Zammit Lewis, Michelle Muscat, Joseph Muscat, Diane Izzo, Karl Izzo, and Elena Farrugia, the wife of Zammit Lewis, on a trip to Gozo.

As Tourism Minister during the first Labour term, Zammit Lewis made one mess after another, particularly at Air Malta, where he attempted to negotiate its sale to Alitalia.

His negotiations were only abandoned at the eleventh hour, as it became clear that Malta was selling its national airline to a failed carrier.

Zammit Lewis also made the most of taking up public funds as soon as he was unelected in 2017.

With Muscat’s help, Zammit Lewis was given a raft of direct orders, including from Identity Malta, the Lands Authority, and the National Development and Social Fund. He was also made a consultant to disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi, pocketing tens of thousands a year.

After being re-elected through a by-election, Zammit Lewis was again made minister by Joseph Muscat, first for EU Affairs and then for justice.

During this time, he paid Labour’s spin doctor, Saviour Balzan, through a direct order, to act as his PR manager.

He also appointed former attorney general Peter Grech, shamed for his lack of action on corruption, as his personal consultant.

He introduced several reforms in the justice sector, which were forced upon the government by the Venice Commission due to severe deficiencies in the rule of law.

Following the 2022 elections, despite being returned to parliament, Zammit Lewis was dumped by Robert Abela, who excluded him from Cabinet. This led him to describe his colleagues as “tfal u pożi” (children and posers).

Through the 50-year-old lawyer’s possible departure to Luxembourg, Robert Abela will also create a new vacancy in parliament, providing him with a possibility to bring in a loyalist into his parliamentary group amid growing discontent over his leadership.

                           

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Paul Borg
Paul Borg
25 days ago

Zammit Lewis should have looked into the mirror before uttered that famous moniker……….GAHAN!

Paul Berman
Paul Berman
25 days ago

We need to stop embarrassing ourselves send this type of unfit for any public position to Europe, he is unfit for any public position anywhere yet we send it to Europe so we look stupid

Citizen Gahan
Citizen Gahan
25 days ago
Reply to  Paul Berman

Not just Europe but the world. How embarrassing is it to give criminal imbeciles top jobs representing our country abroad just because they are party loyalist. And then we wonder how the young ambassador to Cuba would be charged with human traffing and other stuff…

Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
25 days ago

A very gloomy picture, indeed – the only light showing relates to the ‘several reforms forced upon the Government’ by the Venice Commission – due to deficiencies in the Island’s rule of law.

Is that light strong enough to brighten the other darker parts of the picture?

Many would probably say NO.

wenzu
wenzu
25 days ago

Abela scrapes the bottom of the barrel- AGAIN!

Joey Falzon
Joey Falzon
25 days ago

My guess for the co-option…..Steve Ellul for sure!!!!

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
25 days ago

A fact file about Zammit Lewis should be sent to the European Court of Justice. If this doesn’t happen the standards of Maltese politicians can never be raised.

wenzu
wenzu
24 days ago

The MLP is good at appointing it’s own inexperienced and unqualified a–e lickers in a local, mismanaged environment. It won’t be so easy to use the same principles at EU level.

Robert pace bonello
Robert pace bonello
24 days ago

An impressive resume

J.Degabriele
J.Degabriele
21 days ago

Why try to foist such baggage on he ECJ? haven’t we been humiliated enough?

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