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[WATCH] Panama Papers haunts Konrad Mizzi every step of his new European role

Minister says his achievements give him legitimacy to chair European energy council, despite lingering questions over Panama offshore company

yannick_pace
Yannick Pace
12 January 2017, 1:13pm
Konrad Mizzi: “I’ve subjected myself to tax audits and extreme scrutiny by the press, something nobody else has done.” Photo: James Bianchi
Konrad Mizzi: “I’ve subjected myself to tax audits and extreme scrutiny by the press, something nobody else has done.” Photo: James Bianchi
Panama Papers haunts Konrad Mizzi as Malta takes over EU Presidency
Konrad Mizzi, Malta’s de facto minster for energy, has defended his legitimacy to chair the European energy council during Malta’s presidency, in spite of his having opened a secret offshore company in Panama.

“I’ve subjected myself to tax audits and extreme scrutiny by the press, something nobody else has done,” Mizzi said.

The minister has so far not yet published any of the two audits that could be still ongoing on his Panama affairs, one by the Inland Revenue Department and the other by an overseas Big Four audit firm.

Mizzi said he would publish the audits, and claimed he had submitted himself to checks that other politicians had never had.

“We have transformed the energy sector, we will have cleaner air and low energy tariffs after we were told that this was impossible, we have increased our share of renewables. We have also eradicated out-of-stock medicines and vastly improved the health sector,” the former health and energy minister – now a ‘minister without portfolio within the OPM’ – said of the Commission’s approval of Malta’s gas plant.

Mizzi said Brussels had approved all aspects of the project, giving it “legal certainty”. 

“There is legal certainty, it cannot be legally challenged, not by the commission and not by any member state,” he said.

“The process was not straightforward and was very thorough. The Commission has agreed that Electrogas is not being overcompensated, that the project is needed, and that there were no problems related to the procurement process,” he said.

Mizzi said the two-year process was handled by the government and not by Electrogas. He said the government had requested the Commission’s position on whether the project was against state-aid rules, however in order to give an opinion, the Commission needed to understand the full nature of the project.

The approval came from the Commissioner responsible for competition, Margrethe Vestager. “Following 455 pages of written submissions, related to over 60 questions, the Commission had come to the conclusion that all aspects of the project were undertaken according to EU rules.

“Moreover, he said that after the process was concluded, the Commission agreed that the project is needed by Malta to ensure security of supply, that the government’s concerns on electricity generation were adequate, that the relevant legislation had been respected with regards to the LNG tanker and that the project would not distort competition on both a local and European level.”

yannick_pace
Yannick joined MaltaToday as a journalist in 2016. His main areas of interest are politics...