I never thought that I would feel so ashamed, disgusted, and afraid and angered about my own country and my own countrymen after the barbaric murder of our dear Daphne last Monday.
The last vestiges of hope and belief in the moral fibre and belief in doing what is right amongst my fellow countrymen was dashed last week.
I am suffering with Daphne’s children and with her husband, sisters and all her family and offer them my deepest condolences and prayers. I support her son’s approach to the future and hope, together with him, that his mother’s tragic and unforgivable murder leads to a total re-thinking or re-set of our society, our economy, our political set-up, our institutions, so that her death would not have been in vain.
At the same time I am quite despondent and not so hopeful about whether, we, as a Maltese people, as a Maltese nation, can find our way again to the Rule of Law, the protection of free speech and the investigative rights of journalists, protected by independent institutions.
I have previously written about a future EU with a lesser number of Member States than the 28 of today. The inner core EU is inspired not only by Brexit but also by the relaunch of an integrated Europe of likeminded nations, that is being led by Emanuel Macron with Angela Merkel, with the support of core members who believe in fair and controlled taxation, immigration, movement of people, provision of services and social equality, defence of the environment, open trade and above all respect for the Rule of Law.
I had ended my last essay in March with a question of whether Malta would form part of this new EU of around 19 countries and I had promised to answer in my next essay.
I did not do so, nor did I write an essay since March, because of the upcoming June elections and because I had lost all hope that Malta would find its way after that election. A number of events and statements have now led me to reconsider whether to remain silent in my disbelief and loss of faith in my own country or to once more use my time and experience to put my thoughts to paper.
The murder of Daphne and the silencing of free speech that was intended to be achieved by that cowardly and disgusting act was the final straw. I now wish to answer the question of whether Malta fits into the scenario of an EU based upon the Rule of Law.
The answer is a definite NO.
Malta today does not belong in the EU any longer and probably has not belonged to the family of likeminded nations for some time now.
How could a large majority of the population vote for a government that had dismantled all trust in the institutions like the police, army, courts and attorney general’s office, the MFSC (financial services watchdog) the FIAU (Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit), Mepa, Transport Malta. How could they show renewed trust after the government had absolutely and resolutely eliminated controls over all sectors like the energy sector, the IGaming investors, the Maltese passport and what it stood for, the building industry, trade unions, and so on and so forth? How could they vote for ministers holding accounts in Panama?
How could the Finance Minister come home from an EU meeting, which was discussing how to ensure that multinationals and large companies pay their fair share of taxes across the EU, at a relatively normal rate of between 25 to 30 per cent of their profits, where these are generated and proudly stand up against this basic principle of solidarity that binds enlightened modern countries? How can he speak against the need to collect taxes to manage the common services and the needs of the weakest members of society? He even threatened to use his veto should a vote be taken on a common taxation base and collection of taxes.
I now wish to answer the question of whether Malta fits into the scenario of an EU based upon the Rule of Law. The answer is a definite NO
Similarly, earlier last year, the Maltese government vetoed a proposal by the EU to adopt a Council of Europe Convention that aimed to ensure that services provided from one Member State to citizens resident in another Member State should only be provided in accordance with the rules and regulations applicable in the country of residence of the buyer and user of these services and not only to abide by the rules of the country where the provider of these services was resident or moved its residence to. This convention took aim at online gambling since some countries want to limit the amount their citizens can gamble per week to avoid the vice that destroys so many families. Malta does not care to protect the citizens of other countries so long as we can create wealth for ourselves. Gambling companies flock to us for this reason as well as for the low rates of tax and weak controls that we impose, running away from the countries to which they sell and the higher tax rates and controls.
Another shocking thing that happened and that influenced my decision that Malta does no longer belong in the EU is the decision not to adopt the application of the rights of an EU public prosecutor for transnational and national crimes of money laundering and corruption.
Another area that Malta is against is the abolition of secrecy of nominee and trustee companies where the real owners of hidden accounts and companies are hidden from public view through the intervention of lawyers or accountants representing the hidden owners and having the right to secrecy. This is a clear indication that Malta is not interested in fighting money laundering and tax evasion.
There are many many other events of the last months culminating in the cruel and horrific murder of our Daphne, our heroine and the entire world’s symbol of excellent journalism and fearless disclosure of villains, crooks and criminals, that make me shudder and shake in anger.
Those who know me, know how dedicated and fervent I am in my belief in the need for a successful EU for many reasons. The main one being the end of intra-European wars, the end of dictatorships and juntas across Europe, the openness of the largest economy and internal market, the solidarity between richer and poorer EU members, the protection of the environment, social justice, fair wages, rights of women and the weaker members of society, common defence of our borders, a stronger voice at the UN, soft power through our diplomacy and trade measures, etc.
In fact, for those who know me, know that I was Ambassador of Malta to the EU during five years in the 1990s, working incessantly to overcome the many critical voices of the then 12 EU Member States and, after 1995, 15 Members States, not believing that Malta had the ability to change and revert to the Rule of Law after the horrific years of the Mintoffian period. I heard so much criticism of Malta from very serious and high ranking members of the main EU countries and also from the US when approaching NATO after the difficult years of Malta’s isolation in world politics.
Yes, then I truly was not ashamed to call myself Maltese…
(To be continued next Sunday)
John Vassallo is a former ambassador of Malta to the EU.