German MEP claims Prime Minister 'stimulated socialist dinosaurs' to attack him

German MEP Werner Langen brushes off criticism, telling MaltaToday that he cannot take the personal reproaches of 'socialists in the Maltese press' seriously and that the comments 'show a lack of understanding for democracy of the governing party'

tim_diacono
Tim Diacono
22 June 2017, 9:00am
Werner Langen
Werner Langen
The German MEP who chairs the European Parliament’s Panama Papers committee has said that personal attacks aired at himself and two PN MEPs by Labour supporters in the wake of their criticism of Joseph Muscat betrays a “lack of understanding of democracy” by the Maltese government. 

Werner Langen’s Facebook page has in recent days been targeted by Labour supporters, irked at his warning to Muscat during last week’s European Parliament session that his committee will not stop chasing him for answers on the Panama Papers scandal. 

Former GWU secretary-general Tony Zarb also stepped into the fray, demanding that the government declare Langen a “persona non grata” and denouncing PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa as “traitors”. 

However, Langen has brushed off this criticism, telling MaltaToday that he cannot take the personal reproaches of “socialists in the Maltese press” seriously and that the comments “show a lack of understanding for democracy of the governing party”.

“I am sorry that Mr Muscat had to stimulate the ‘dinosuars’ of the socialists to attack two Maltese colleagues and myself on a personal level,” he said, in an obvious reference to Tony Zarb.

“It is especially alarming for me that all of this is happening under Muscat’s eyes while his country holds the EU Council Presidency and he is leaving many questions in the plenary unanswered.” 

Asked for a reaction, a spokesperson for Muscat told MaltaToday that Langen’s “partisan approach” undermines the impartiality needed for him to fulfil his role as an impartial chairperson.

“We will not get into a slinging match with someone who clearly cannot decipher political partisan spin and outright lies which have been denied, while he continues stating them as facts,” he said.  

Joseph Muscat last week travelled to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he faced questions by MEPs on the Panama Papers scandal and Malta’s taxation system during a debate on the rule of law on the island. 

The most damning criticism came from Werner Langen, the chairperson of the EP committee investigating the fallout of the Panama Papers, who ripped into OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri for refusing to appear before the committee. 

“This is total disdain to the European Parliament, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” he told a chuckling Muscat. “You can laugh all you like, Prime Minister, but we [the PANA committee] will insist that you don’t get off scot-free. 

If you keep doing nothing, then we [the Pana committee] will keep on following you and keep on questioning you…including whether you had bought votes in Malta.” 

Muscat had brushed off the criticism, arguing that he will appear before the Pana committee once an inquiry into allegations that his wife owns the offshore company Egrant has been completed, and that no one had commented about how the wife of EU energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete had also been implicated in the Panama Papers scandal. 

‘Muscat’s arrogant behaviour covered up his insecurity’ 

Langen told MaltaToday that Muscat didn’t convince him at all last week, arguing that “it is obvious that his arrogant behaviour should cover up his insecurity”. 

He also dismissed the Prime Minister’s comparison of the case of Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri with that of Miguel Arias Cañete, arguing that the European commissioner’s case was not one of potential corruption but solely of a potential conflict of interest, that has since been clarified by the responsible committee. 

Langen welcomed Muscat’s commitment to appear before the Pana committee at the end of the Egrant inquiry, and gave him a teaser as to what sort of questions he should brace himself for. 

“He will be welcomed and he will get questions concerning Malta’s distorting tax policy, which he will hopefully answer,” he said. “He has not succeeded to convince parts of the Parliament, especially the members of the committee of enquiry.”