The picture of Malta in European chancelleries and in the corridors of Brussels is now changing. The shock of the bombing of a journalist in an EU member state has raised the attention of even the most inveterate sympathisers of Malta within the EU.

Yesterday’s Financial Times (the online edition is by subscription so I cannot post a link here) described the chilling scene when Joseph Muscat was faced down by his counterparts. “Mr Muscat offered EU leaders reassurance at a Brussels summit on Thursday that the murder would be properly investigated. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, spoke at the same gathering of the collective shock in Europe.”

Angela Merkel was never Joseph Muscat’s biggest fan. If he tried his usual small-time crook charm on her, she would have seen through him like a school mistress. Unlike Jean-Claude Juncker she never fell for his second-hand-car-salesman quips.

She will have been briefed by her embassy here. But she will also be perfectly aware how utterly perplexed the German press is of the security vulnerability that is Malta. Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an editorial commentary yesterday dubbed Malta “Panama in the Mediterranean”.

From Suddeutsche Zeitung (my translation): “Maybe now the time has come when people in Brussels are also starting to ask questions. (Daphne Caruana Galizia’s) blog was a murky mirror of the treasure island. Malta is the smallest EU country; possibly that’s why it had remained below the radar until now. The bomb of Bidnija might change this. It was the 6th car bomb within 2 years, mounted and detonated Mafia-style.”

A senior EU Commission official speaking to me on condition of anonymity told me the tone in the EU Commission offices has changed over the past few days. The political currents from the Member States have hardened and the list of allies of Joseph Muscat is running thin. That is a personal problem for him but it will make life harder within the EU for many years after he leaves.

Joseph Muscat feels the heat. His personal ambition of a post-Malta career in Europe appears frustrated and his cool image of calm and business is usual is impressing no one.

Clearly no Member State will interfere in the domestic politics of another. And the electoral mandate that Joseph Muscat enjoys is a particularly galling barrier to any outsider clearing their throat to challenge him.

But the concern that the Malta problem could have ramifactions on their own domestic security raises a yellow alert throughout Europe. Malta has been trusted far more than it deserves. That looks like it might be about to change.

Veteran diplomats who worked at Malta’s foreign office between 1987 and 1996 know full well the difficulty of breaching the psychological barriers of Europeans conditioned by their experience of Malta under Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici: a rogue state and a colony of Mu’ammar Ghaddafi. An application to join the EU in 1990 was taken lightly by Europeans who ignored it in the 1995 enlargement effectively costing the PN the 1996 election.

Twenty-five years of sensible Eddie Fenech Adami and Lawrence Gonzi administrations slowly won us Europe’s trust and Joseph Muscat was expected to keep to the same high standards. Riding on the reputation built by his predecessors he waddled in all pomp and circumstance. But under the sharp suits and glassy eyes is a crook completely in his element mobilising votes in his Malta and just as entirely out of his depth in the games he tried to play.

He has indeed future-proofed our country: a slogan he designed for this budget that no one remembers but that truly represents our state of affairs. We have a government that has built a policy edifice that is effectively scuppering the future.