Leo Brincat’s appointment as a member of the European Court of Auditors shed a “bad light” on the Maltese government, the vice chairwoman of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee warned.

Czech Liberal MEP Martina Dlabajova expressed this sentiment yesterday when asked by the Times of Malta for her reaction to the European Council’s controversial decision to approve Mr Brincat’s appointment, going against the recommendation of the European Parliament.

Two weeks ago, a majority of MEPs voted against Malta’s nominee for the Luxembourg-based institution with 381 votes against and 229 in favour.

However, the EP’s decision was not legally binding, and the Council yesterday decided against its recommendation.

The government had originally nominated Labour Party deputy leader Toni Abela to the post, but he was rejected by the Budgetary Committee.

Mr Brincat will succeed former minister and speaker Louis Galea.

This is not the most auspicious beginning for Mr Brincat, as he will have to cooperate very closely with those who disapproved of him

An aggrieved Ms Dlabajova yesterday did not mince her words when asked for her views on the Council’s decision, which followed the positive recommendation given on September 21 by Coreper II. The latter comprises permanent representatives from each member state.

“I really don’t understand the Maltese government’s and the Council’s decision to persist with his nomination – not respecting our decision. This doesn’t shed a good light on the Maltese government. Moreover this is not the most auspicious beginning for Mr Brincat as a member of the ECA, as he will have to cooperate very closely with the Budgetary Control Committee which disapproved of his candidacy,” the MEP warned.

Her disappointment was echoed by Finnish MEP Petri Sarvamaa. The European People’s Parliament shadow rapporteur for the ECA candidates described the Council’s decision as “extremely regrettable”, even though he acknowledged that it had every right to its decision.

“For the ministers who made the decision, this nomination may seem like a small matter, but it goes right to the very core of the Union. It is a matter of assuring the correct use of the entire Union budget,” he said.

On his part, Labour MEP and former Prime Minister Alfred Sant gave a much more positive assessment, while noting that the Council’s decision was in full respect of the EU treaties. “In Mr Brincat’s case, Parliament expressed a favourable opinion at committee stage, when members had the possibility to question him, and a negative one at plenary, when this was not possible.”

“The Council, acting in the name of democratically elected governments, unanimously agreed to endorse his nomination,” Dr Sant added.

The Maltese government welcomed Mr Brincat’s appointment, saying it conveyed a strong message about his integrity and competence.  It regretted that, for the first time, there were divisions locally on the nomination and said it hoped that these politically partisan games would stop.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Nationalist Party said in deciding to forge ahead with Mr Brincat’s nomination, the Dr Muscat had clashed with the European Parliament just as Malta was about to take over the EU presidency. Minister Konrad Mizzi and chief of staff Keith Schembri were the reason Malta was getting a bad reputation, and they should be immediately removed, the PN insisted.

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