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‘My position on Panamagate has changed’, new EP President admits

Joseph Muscat defends minister Konrad Mizzi: 'He is under my direct supervision now'

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
18 January 2017, 2:11pm
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with new European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (Photo: Jeremy Wonacott /DOI)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with new European Parliament President Antonio Tajani (Photo: Jeremy Wonacott /DOI)
Antonio Tajani, the new President of the European Parliament, has admitted that his new position has forced him to change his stance on the Panama Papers scandal.

When the scandal broke in April last year, Tajani – who was then a MEP with the European People’s Party – said in a tweet that he was concerned at the situation in Malta.

“What is going on in Malta? The socialist government has found itself in difficulty thanks to this scandal,” the Italian MEP tweeted.

However, when faced questions from the Maltese press as to whether he was comfortable with the fact that minister Konrad Mizzi has been entrusted with chairing the EU Energy Council, Tajani said that his new role as President has forced him to change his position.

“As an EPP MEP, I was in favour of what my colleagues in the PN were saying. However, I am now independent and free, and my position will be the position of the European Parliament,” he said.

During a debate in the European Parliament on Malta’s EU presidency, Muscat was twice reminded of the Panama Papers scandal – by PN MEP David Casa and by Green MEP Sven Giegold.

When asked whether such persistent reminders will convince him to reconsider sacking Mizzi as minister, Muscat’s position was unequivocal.

“I am sure that Panama will continue to dominate the news in the Maltese media. What I will say is that one of [Mizzi’s] portfolios has been removed from him and the other is under my direct control. Mizzi is under my direct supervision.”

In the wake of the Panama Papers scandal last year, Muscat stripped Mizzi of his energy and health portfolios but kept him on as a ‘minister within the Office of the Prime Minister’ where he has continued to oversee key energy projects.