Panama Papers news has emerged with Brussels feeling very embarrassed at the moment, when talk in the policy palace turns to the next European semester. This is due to the fact that as of January 2017, the Presidency of the European Semester will be handed to Joseph Muscat, the #Prime Minister of Malta who is a friend of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The two have been friends since 2013 when Muscat took office as PM and was elected to guide a questionable Labour government on an island that was under siege by the citizens and independent press. The cause of all this was not only the fact that in those three years the Labour government had been distinguished purely for selling passports to wealthy people, for the 650,000euro figure (even censored by Europe) ranks which hide very questionable figures from Russia, Azerbaijan and China- it happens in all business countries with this government, nor for having changed five Police Commissioners who apparently were not in line with the Prime Minister’s demands, no, none of the above, the real reason that sparked the ire of the population and of the Nationalist Party, today lead by Simon Busuttil, is the discovery- thanks to the ICIJ (International Consortium of Investigative Journalists)- of two further names in the Panama Papers list, one being the Minister for Energy and Health Konrad Mizzi and the other being the Chief of Staff Kheit Schembri. The news of the involvement of representatives of the institutional governments in the Legal & Mossack Fonseca list called “The Scandal of Panama Papers” has shaken the ground in the international institutions to the extent that the Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson has had to resign as he has been proven guilty of having hidden accounts abroad from his own citizens.He had more luck than English Prime Minister David Cameron who also hid accounts from British citizens and was demanded to resign by the Labour Party, he was forced to publish all his finances, but the English Prime Minister remains and is in a position of facing a possible Brexit which awaits votes in June, Cameron has to fight hard to resist and to not see a shocking victory on the anti-Europe front!
However, all of this has not affected the morality of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who manages to keep face and carry on as if nothing has happened, whether he faces street protests, interrogation from the media or a lack of confidence and demand of resignation from involved politicians presented by Simon Busuttil, the Leader of his opposition. There are Labourists and then there are Labourists, something we should think about.
Not only that, the press from ‘The Independent’ wanted to raise the question of Minister Konrad Mizzi in providing documentary evidence that shows that Dr Mizzi’s company in Panama had been transferred to New Zealand on 22nd July 2015 – on the same day that Gasol sold its entire stake in ELETTROGAS Delimara, the power plant consortium, for a figure that according to financial experts who were interviewed by the newspaper, said would be worth tens of millions of Euros. Prime Minister Muscat, his Minister Mizzi and the Chief of Staff Schembri found themselves under accusation by government agencies who have threatened them with lawsuits instead of responding to this and to other questionable happenings which occurred in other business, a coincidence that the Maltese Government has done in these three years of government with foreign countries and companies. The popular resentment also involves representatives of the Labour Party, historical figures and Maltese personalities who all demonstrated to the Prime Minister expressing the desire for moral enlightenment and transparency within the country- none of which happened! Indeed the Prime Minister clearly saw it fit to change the Police Commissioner (five in three years) and was guilty of only having listened to the public’s requests for an open investigation for the sake of money laundering and tax evasion. This occurs in Malta because the power of investigation is in the competence of the Police, which in turn depends on the Government, and as in the countries where there is not a full democracy, rulers are not legally prosecuted, even in obvious cases like this! In this regard, Simon Busuttil, Leader of the opposing party is also thinking of giving the citizens a referendum in order to change the current situation and make the Government’s Independent Police under the control of a Warranty Organ made up of magistrates, lawyers and praiseworthy Maltese personalities.
The severity of the internal Maltese situation is also mirrored in the world of finance, with involvement of members of the Government in the Panama Papers Scandal, financial operators and professionals, seeing Malta going back in to a sort of Black List, after which the tax and regulatory compliance charged at entry into the European Union, managed to recreate an intertwining transparency in international finance, they are now experiencing uncertainty in the financial world, which in the face of these facts, requires a necessary new line in politics.
The institutions in Brussels are asking Prime Minister Joseph Muscat the same question, particularly in the view of the 2017 European semester, it is inappropriate to have the semester lead by a country that has a delegitimized government filled with financial scandals! The stability of the future European Union also passes on feelings of mistrust and immorality to citizens, hence demanding that Joseph Muscat draw up the consequences facing the politicians involved, banishing them from Maltese institutions, requiring them stand in front of the public again and be re-elected at the end of 2016 to be reinvested according to the faith of the Maltese people. Only such a thing would be credible and would present Malta as a President for the new European semester in January 2017!