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The Dalligate boomerang returns to Barroso

MaltaToday’s leaks of the OLAF report and the Supervisory Committee’s evaluation of the Dalli investigation raises a serious political question: why were José Barroso and Lawrence Gonzi so inured to the prospect of decapitating John Dalli?

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
14 May 2013, 12:00am
EC president Jose Barroso with former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi
EC president Jose Barroso with former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi


Dalligate is, slowly but surely, turning into Barrosogate, says the French left-leaning Libération. And to go by the vehement declarations of MEPs José Bové and Bart Staes in Malta this week, the resignation of John Dalli from European Commissioner may as well turn out to be a "bomb".

But not only for European Commission president José Manuel Durao Barroso. Perhaps, even for the former Maltese administration.

Not only did Barroso force the resignation of John Dalli from the EC on the strength of just a covering letter - officially at least - to an investigation by OLAF which found no direct evidence of Dalli's involvement in an alleged bribery attempt.

But as it turns out, Barroso based himself on an investigation which was carried out in breach of the rules that govern the EU's anti-fraud agency's rules of procedure.

The Commission is sticking to its own guns, as a tweet by its head of spokespersons, Koen Doens, earlier on Thursday shows: "OLAF is independent, Dalli resigned because his position was politically untenable..."

Few now believe that Dalli accepted to resign. With conclusive proof that OLAF found no direct evidence of his involvement in a bribery attempt, and a Supervisory Committee calling into question the sheer legality of the investigation, the tide is now turning.

Barroso's initial silence, washing his hands of the matter by delegating the OLAF investigation to the Maltese Attorney General, is now raising suspicions of a political assassination. "Malta's honour is at stake," Green MEP José Bové said this week after taking the Supervisory Committee's report to the Maltese prime minister and the Commissioner of Police.

True: harking back to the events as they happened after 16 October 2012, not a single voice uttered a line in defence of Malta or John Dalli. Then prime minister Lawrence Gonzi, inured at the fate of his former leadership rival, had deputy prime minister Tonio Borg ready to take up the Commissioner's post in Brussels. A deputy leadership vacancy now paved the way for the candidacy of popular MEP Simon Busuttil, in time for the coming general elections.

But was the Maltese administration already in the know about OLAF's investigation when it had kicked off back in May? Rita Schembri, head of the OPM's internal audit and investigations department (IAID), was aware of the allegations as early as June. The smoking gun is that her superior, principal permanent secretary Godwin Grima, could have known. Perhaps, even the prime minister was aware.

On its part, the European Commission has declared that Barroso never discussed the case with members of the Maltese government. Recent revelations that it was tobacco lobbyist Michel Petite, a former head of the EU's legal services, who took the Swedish Match complaint to EC secretary-general Catherine Day, only add fire to the fuel of how much Barroso knew. Petite was directly appointed by the President to an ad hoc committee on transparency and lobbying rules, to the consternation of transparency watchdogs.

But then on 5 October, 10 days before OLAF's investigation was handed over to the Commission, Barroso and Gonzi met in Malta for the euro-mediterranean 5+5 summit. It will remain only a matter of speculation as to whether the two men spoke on the impending conclusions of the OLAF investigation.

What is not a matter of speculation is the ruthless decapitation of John Dalli. Would Barroso, after having met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, proceeded to give the chop to Commissioner Gunther Oettinger? Would he have given him 30 minutes to leave the Berlaymont building without first being certain of the legal validity of the OLAF investigation? Would it not have been a diplomatic sleight to Malta for Dalli to be carted out so unceremoniously?

"The political element here is that Barroso didn't ask OLAF, when he got the Dalli investigation, if they had consulted the Supervisory Committee... if you're going to hand something over to the judicial authorities, you have to make sure that it is being done according to fundamental rights and to procedures," Green MEP Bart Staes said earlier this week.

"This is a real bomb," Staes said about the Supervisory Committee's evaluation of the OLAF investigation. "Barroso has to explain himself."
matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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BARROSO AND GONZIPN HAD HIDDEN AGENDAS AND EVERY EFFORT MUST BE MADE TO GET BARROSO OUT OF THE EU COMMISSION TO CLEAN IT UP BUT ALSO GET TO THE TRUTH SO THAT THE GONZIPN CLIQUE ALSO RECEIVE THE JUSTICE THEY DESERVE. LOOSING THE ELECTION AT SUCH COST TO HUMAN SUFFERING IS NOT ENOUGH. JUSTICE MUST BE DONE. JUST AS MUCH AS JUSTICE MUST BE DONE TO MARTIN FENECH AND HIS CO-DIRECTORS WHO WERE SO WRONGLY ACCUSED BY THE SAME GONZIPN CLIQUE DURING THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
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George Muscat
Dr Lawrence Gonzi never wanted Mr John Dalli to take his seat. In my honest opinion it was just another frame up by the Nationalist Party. Although I am not his colour I hope john Dalli will come out clean and the involved in his beheading will be beheaded (in the political sense, because people should know that dirty will come out one day.
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Josanne Cassar
The head of the Commission's spokespersons Koen Doens has repeated that former Commissioner Dalli resigned because his position became politically untenable. We have been hearing this for months. Fine. Accepted. But hasn't Barroso's position also become politically untenable? Barroso is lingering on in his position until he runs his time as Commission President in less than a year's time, but in actual fact shouldn't he now be given the same treatment he gave Dalli?
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Manuel Scicluna
Barosso should be investigated in all aspects. he is a dirty player not fit for EU politics.