Leo Brincat’s nomination for the Court of Auditors flounders: what they said

Resounding no for Leo Brincat's nomination shows Malta is paying the price for Panama Papers on the international stage

When Malta’s former environment minister and veteran Labour MP Leo Brincat failed to win the vote of the European Parliament to be nominated to the European Court of Auditors, it was clear that Malta would not take it sitting down.

Already Leo Brincat had told MEPs in the budgetary control committee, in the questionnaire he answered before his grilling, that he would not be withdrawing his nomination if MEPs say no to him.

When the vote actually came, with 381 votes against – meaning far, far more than the European People’s Party’s 215 members – Brincat sent out word he was not withdrawing the nomination.

MaltaToday, in its Midweek leader, said Leo Brincat's vote against the no-confidence motion filed against Konrad Mizzi caused him to pay the ultimate price before a majority of MEPs who included members from the greens, liberal democrats, as well as left-wing and other eurosceptic groupings.

Throughout the entire affair, Brincat was his characteristically neutered self, never once publicly declaring his displeasure at the Panama affair. But only to MEPs in the budgetary control committee earlier last week did he admit that he considered resigning, but shied away from earning his peers’ rebuke and instead attempt to “exert influence internally”.

This apparent admission rings hollow when Brincat voted against the no-confidence motion filed against Mizzi.

Portuguese socialist MEP Ana Gomes, a vice-president of the Panama Papers inquiry committee warned about this course of action:

“Ignoring the vote by MEPs — it was not by one or two votes — does indeed spell trouble because, of course, this would create an even more adverse opinion about the Maltese government.”

Socialist MEP Ana Gomes voted against Leo Brincat's nomination
Socialist MEP Ana Gomes voted against Leo Brincat's nomination

Petri Sarvamaa, a centre-right Finnish MEP, said was it “not the best possible start for the mood as far as Pariament is concerned”:

“We’re extremely unhappy and I can say that it is totally unbearable that the Council is not listening to us.”

Petri Sarvamaa
Petri Sarvamaa

Another PANA committee MEP, German Green member Sven Giegold, was critical about Malta’s tax practices, tying the matter up with Panama Papers.

“The vote sends a clear signal to the Social Democrats of Malta: Clean up your tax haven and act against bad governance.”

Green MEP Sven Giegold
Green MEP Sven Giegold

In Malta, the Greens’ chairperson Arnold Cassola said the politically experienced Leo Brincat had reaped the Panama whirlwind even after his ambivalent answers for having voted in favour of Konrad Mizzi in the Maltese parliament in a motion of no confidence.

“He has therefore ended up paying for the shameful unethical behaviour of Minister Konrad Mizzi and Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri in the Panama Papers affair.”

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola
Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola

Cassola said matters can only get worse in the next months.

“The European Parliament Panama Investigation committee will be coming to Malta by the end of the year to collect facts and interview witnesses. It is imperative that Prime Minister Muscat immediately ditches Mizzi, Schembri and any other politician and hangers-on involved in the Panama Papers scandal.”

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, who led two anti-corruption protests after the Panama Papers scandal, reiterated statements he made about Brincat being tainted by his government’s Panama Papers.

“The Prime Minister should not even dream of going into an EU presidency with Konrad Mizzi … around his neck. This would be political suicide.”

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil at this week's Independence celebrations
Opposition leader Simon Busuttil at this week's Independence celebrations

On its part, Labour attacked what it said had been the Nationalist Party’s own partisan interests in calling on the EPP to turn down Leo Brincat:

“It is shameful that Maltese MEPs voted against Brincat’s nomination when his competence was never brought into question. Their vote confirms that the PN is only interests in its partisan interests and the national interest. We unreservedly condemn such motives and methods.”

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