In 2019 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on a resolution calling on Malta to get serious about investigating the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia and to start addressing the corruption, the weak institutions, the rotten governance, and the intrusion on journalists’ basic freedoms.
Only a few members of the Assembly voted against that resolution. Maltese Labour MPs, including, famously Rosianne Cutajar who had just delivered her first and only speech in the Assembly in the four years of her tenure, were almost alone in voting against it. Their only allies were the MPs from Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan had a special relationship with the Joseph Muscat government that was indicted so explicitly by that resolution. Azerbaijan was in the background of the banking business at Pilatus Bank. It was in the background of the Electrogas scandal. It was in the background of the Montenegro windfarm swindle. It was in the background of the never proven allegation of a fat bribe paid to Joseph Muscat through an account not held in the name of his wife.
I was reminded of this because of another vote held in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe just a few days ago. First, some technical background. The Parliamentary Assembly is just one of the organs of the Council. It is a chamber made up of delegates sent from all the Parliaments of the Member States. The delegations are given credentials by the Parliament which sends them, and the rest of the Assembly normally accepts those credentials.
This time the Parliamentary Assembly decided to reject the credentials of the Azerbaijani delegation. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough stamps on the application form.
It was because “very serious concerns remain as to [Azerbaijan’s] ability to conduct free and fair elections, the separation of powers, the weakness of its legislature vis-à-vis the executive, the independence of the judiciary and respect for human rights, as illustrated by numerous judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and opinions of the Venice Commission.”
Now I love an irony of history. Only one Maltese MP was at the Assembly to vote on the resolution and that was Labour’s Randolph Debattista. The record shows he voted in favour of the resolution which means he voted against the acceptance of the Azerbaijani delegation.
I’m not criticising the vote. I would have if he voted against. The Azerbaijani regime is particularly horrible, brutally oppressive, and fabulously corrupt. Any occasion to isolate it politically should never be missed, especially by Parliamentarians who can afford to be more honest than their governments.
But I wonder if Randolph Debattista knows that the Azerbaijanis might remember more than he did that when Joseph Muscat was isolated in Strasbourg, they were the only ones to swim to his aid.
And I wonder if Randolph Debattista checked ahead his voting intention with Joseph Muscat. I rather suspect he didn’t.