The political parties of the European Parliament rarely agree on anything. Certainly almost never to the extent that they were today, united in disgust at Joseph Muscat’s government abuse of its power. They are concerned that the law in Malta is not applied equally for everyone. That the press is not free to speak without fear of retribution, even death. That the institutional barriers to push away corruption and the washing of dirty money are removed. That politicians caught red-handed have absolved themselves.
In the words of Daphne Caruana Galizia “this is no normal democracy”. The European Parliament agrees.
Alfred Sant stood in the European Parliament yesterday and angrily told his audience that Malta’s Labour Party has the largest vote share in its constituency of any political party in the European Union. So there.
Yes, some listeners mumbled. Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev can say that as well. But what does that prove?
Incidentally if anything, if one were to be petty about things, Malta’s Nationalist Party has the second largest vote share in its constituency of any political party in the European Union. And yet, Malta’s government uses its opposition as a piss pot.
Speaking of a little manneken pis, here’s Kurt Farrugia reacting to Simon Busuttil commenting on the EP’s vote today.
Kurt Farrugia misses the point. Not because he’s stupid. He isn’t. This is merely the Labour party’s official line being expressed with the muddying addition of piss-drunk arrogance.
Labour cannot help consistently confirming it holds in contempt any institution outside its control. There is little more the European Parliament can do than exert moral pressure. Joseph Muscat could choose to listen to what he is being told and adjust its way. Or it could ignore it and laugh it off.
The official government spokesman is not mocking Simon Busuttil here. He is mocking the European Parliament, including three-quarters of the Socialist group who refused to follow Alfred Sant in defending the indefensible. He is deepening the isolation of a regime that has turned its back on the European values of democracy and free speech that were restored to Malta in 1987 and sealed, we believed, with EU membership in 2004.
Joseph Muscat still enjoys some subservience of bureaucrats in the European Commission who would rather try to keep him on side for as long as possible than open a war that could permanently split Malta from Europe.
And in the European Council he will continue to be treated with the politeness among nations that is afforded to any head of government, however distasteful, that is not building a nuclear arsenal.
But this government no longer has friends. It only has the comfort of its power, unassailable and, as it is now starting to wield it, unlimited.
But Malta has many friends. Europarliamentarians may not have much power in the legal sense of the word. But they have a power that other institutions do not have: the power to speak their mind, to vote out of choice and out of conviction without the shackles of a realpolitik that forces chancelleries to call spades, bouquets of flowers.
They have spoken today. Their voice does not bring down buildings. But it is clear and loud. Joseph Muscat and his government have derailed the country off its European tracks. The rule of law and freedom of expression are threatened in a way which is unacceptable in a European democracy.
Hey Kurt Farrugia, I assure you no one is celebrating the European Parliament’s vote today. It is an embarrassment to us all that we have a government that has brought us into this. We will not celebrate when Malta is criticised because of its government. But we will celebrate when once again, as it once was, Malta is praised for its integrity and for the example and witness it bears in its neighbourhood and in the world.
Will the European Parliament’s resolution of today bring about change?
It took almost half a century of toil to take us from the depths of 1971 to that crowning day in 2004.
Making Malta European again is a project for generations. We must start by not being afraid.