Face-mask scandal is grist to Agius Saliba’s mill after German MEP’s telling-off

German face-mask scandal and American sanctions on Bulgaria give Labour MEP a springboard to hit back at EPP members Monika Holhmeier and Roberta Metsola

Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba
Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba

Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba has bounced back from a telling-off inside a European Parliament committee meeting by a German MEP.

Agius Saliba, whose socialist grouping sent a letter of protest to European Parliament president David Sassoli on having been denied the full extent of a five-minute intervention during the CONT committee, turned his guns on German MEP Monika Hohlmeier and Roberta Metsola, the Maltese MEP and EP vice-president.

Agius Saliba referred to sweeping anti-graft sanctions rolled out against high-profile Bulgarian power-brokers over the country’s rule of law crisis, while the EU had so far failed to confront the Boris Borissov government.

But he accused Hohlmeier of failing to apply their yardstick on rule of law to the EPP-aligned Borissov administration, bringing into the picture Roberta Metsola over a previous resolution on Bulgaria she had received flak about.

Widely viewed as an embarrassment for the EU, the American sanctions exposed the EU’s inability to police the Bulgarian administration after a spate of corruption scandals that are also tied to EU funds that end up in the hands of Bulgaria’s mafia and powerful oligarchs.

“After [Metsola] moved amendments to water down a resolution on Bulgaria, we can say we now know where the mafia is… I hope to see both Metsola and Hohlmeier move a similar debate on the use of EU funds by Bulgaria inside CONT, with the same energy they used with respect to Malta,” Agius Saliba said.

Bulgaria’s prime minister’s party is part of the EPP political family.

Agius Saliba’s diatribe comes after German MEP Monika Hohlmeier, an EPP member and president of the Budgetary Control Committee, prevented Agius Saliba from directly answering an MEP who linked the Caruana Galizia assassination to a discussion on the use of EU funds by Malta in presentations given by the European Commission and anti-fraud agency OLAF. She insisted the CONT committee was not debating an issue of rule of law, and that Agius Saliba, who was not a CONT member but was accorded the courtesy of an intervention, had to abide by the subject of the committee meeting.

“Hohlmeier says she treats everyone fairly... I hope she does so on the use of EU funds by Bulgaria,” Agius Saliba, who has formally protested what he said was Hohlmeier’s act of censorship in his regard.

Agius Saliba referred to reports in Der Spiegel of emails between face-mask lobbyist Andrea Tandler and Hohlmeier – both Tandler’s father Gerold and Hohlmeier’s father Franz Josef Strauss were long-time CSU allies. Hohlmeier is said to have obtained Tandler access to German health minister Jens Spahn. His ministry then placed a large order with Swiss company Emix for outrageously expensive masks, for which Tandler sought buyers on the German market. Hohlmeier has denied enrichment on the deal.

“This is the kind of corruption we find inside the EPP-aligned partner CDU/CSU in Germany,” Agius Saliba, who took to task both the MEP and EPP president Manfred Weber for holding out Malta for special criticism on corruption.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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