A tangled web

As Sir Walter Scott put it in one of his works, one lie leads to more – just as a spider weaves a web

This was the week that was – if there ever was one in Malta.

I am writing on Thursday – two days after the resignation of one minister and the news of the Constitutional impossiblity of another ‘temporarily’ suspending himself. The Prime Minister has not yet appointed anyone to take over these ministerial responsibilities. This means he is now also directly responsible for whatever is happening in these two ministries.

It is indeed a meltdown of Muscat’s administration. His sandcastle built on dishonesty has imploded. Many who were attracted by his fresh approach and looked positively at his ‘business friendly’ Labour Party were appalled.

As Sir Walter Scott put it in one of his works (‘Marmion’ – quoted above), one lie leads to more – just as a spider weaves a web. As the lies multiply, the web becomes more and more tangled, and the liar ends up trapped in one’s own dishonesty.

Even small lies or deceptions can soon lead into all sorts of supporting lies to the point where the liar ends up in a maze of deceit. Telling lies or acting in a dishonest way leads to problems and complications that the liar cannot control. The bigger the lies, the more tangled is the web of lies.

The Caruana Galizia murder probe suddenly turned to be such a tangled web and became a nightmare for the powers that be. It results that people in high positions of power were behind the murder, as some had long insisted. I must admit that this scenario seemed so preposterous that, instinctively, I – like many others – doubted the possibility. I was wrong.

Suddenly ‘Malta tagħna lkoll’ and ‘L-aqwa żmien’ have taken a sinister meaning. Malta’s history as an independent nation will for ever be daubed with blood on the hands of the people who were in power when this sordid episode took place. That will be Joseph Muscat’s sorry legacy in the future history books of our country.

Hearing about what happened and how the whole edifice built on lies suddenly collapsed, I cannot but think on how reckless and stupid these people were. The only ‘smart’ guy – apparently – the individual in his role as a go-between in this sordid affair.

This recklessness and stupidity (for want of a better word) is the result of their state of mind – the idea that power gives you immunity and that whatever you do can always be covered up by abusing the institutions that are meant to protect the citizen from abuses.

This over-confidence in the ‘benefits’ of immunity led to a concocted plot that – it now results – was as reckless and short-sighted as it could be. In Maltese we have a term that suits them perfectly: they were drunk with power (fis-sakra tal-poter). They must have felt so immune, that they could even afford to be reckless to the extent that our democracy was practically mutated into a kleptocracy.

I have always said that those who feel at ease when in a position of power do not comprehend the real intensity of power or are otherwise irresponsible reckless fools.

Of these we have had many. And they are found in all seats of power not only in Malta but wherever man is governed by man.

In my life, I have been called many things and allegations about my conduct (as imagined by others) were rife – as happens in any democracy. I may be an idiot but I always felt that the comment about me that really insulted me was that as a minister, I was ‘sitting comfortably in a ministerial chair’. No serious responsible person sits comfortably in a position of power – uneasy is the head that wears the crown.

Sitting comfortably in a position of power leads one to abuse.

Not necessarily abuse of the atrociousness that was revealed this week in Malta.

For that one must also lack basic morality.

The best of times (L-aqwa żmien) has turned out to be the biggest lie of all – the best of times can never be associated with the times when an amoral greedy clique held sway over this fair land.

Macron’s vision of Europe

The French President, Emmanuel Macron is seeking to cement his position as the EU’s pre-eminent leader after seeing his vision of the EU’s future practically rebuffed by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Part of this vision is his different approach to EU enlargement. He shocked his EU colleagues at the October summit by saying no to the opening of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. He insisted that no membership talks should begin before the EU has reformed the way these talks are conducted, and that no new member should be allowed to join before the EU had undergone a deep internal reform.

The ‘gradual association’ idea was the basis for a ‘reformed approach to the accession process’ that was set out in an informal, six-page paper circulated to EU diplomats by France two weeks ago.

A prominent member of Macron’s EU policy team explains Macron’s vision this way: ‘Macron thinks we’re witnessing the beginnings of a bipolar world and he wants Europe to be a player, not an object in that game.’

Macron’s team argues that the EU can no longer afford to work with its traditional slow habits of consensus building and incremental change.

This also applies to the accession process. The challenges facing the bloc – from technological change, to migration, climate change and an increasingly hostile world – are too great for the EU to continue moving at the pace of the slowest member on every issue.

Moreover, Russia has become an important player in much of Macron’s thinking. When the EU’s former Soviet member states look east, they see a resurgent Russia that is looking to flex its muscles.

On the other hand, Macron sees a potential ally. He thinks that Moscow could be drawn into Europe’s orbit instead of China’s. He believes Russia will tire of playing junior partner to Beijing and he wants Europe to be ready.

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