[WATCH] EU rules must be respected, Grech says on Malta pipeline after Tajani meeting

PN leader Bernard Grech met Italian MEP Antonio Tajani who has questioned the European Commission about funds for Malta's gas pipeline project and how these could end up in the pockets of people implicated in Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder

Opposition leader Bernard Grech
Opposition leader Bernard Grech

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said Malta has to improve its reputation before discussions on EU funds for its gas pipeline to Sicily can take place.

Grech was asked about Italian centre-right MEPs’ reservations on European funds for Malta’s €400 million gas pipeline to Gela, over claims the grant could see European funds ending up into entities or people implicated in Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination.

Murder suspect Yorgen Fenech is a shareholder in Electrogas, the company that generates electricity in Malta.

Italian MEP Antonio Tajani during a brief meeting with Bernard Grech
Italian MEP Antonio Tajani during a brief meeting with Bernard Grech

Grech was emerging from talks with Italian MEP and former EP president Antonio Tajani, head of the Italian delegation to the European People’s Party.

“Malta needs to show good governance in these types of discussions. I believe that if we want our country to move forward and improve its reputation, we need to make sure that those who harmed our country answer for their actions, but they must also have nothing to do with such institutions or contracts of this type,” Grech told journalists in Strasbourg.

Grech said the two sides had discussed their home parties and the European Parliament, but not the Italian MEPs’ questions to the European Commission on the gas pipeline.

“It’s not about being denied or not being denied funding,” Grech said. “We have a situation where someone who is accused of killing a Maltese journalist also forms part of the Electrogas company. Because of this, we need to make sure EU rules are respected.”

Grech added that he will continue working to make sure Malta can benefit in the best way possible by “bettering our reputation”.

Tajani and nine other MEPs submitted a parliamentary written question to the Commission earlier this month asking for safeguards to ensure that European funding will not flow to Yorgen Fenech, the man accused of murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The Caruana Galizia family argues that EU funds for a Malta-Sicily pipeline could benefit Fenech as a shareholder in Electrogas. Matthew Caruana Galizia, son of the slain journalist, says part of the gas deal was for the Electrogas shareholders, including Fenech, to receive a payout from the Maltese government once a gas pipeline is constructed.

A pipeline will see Malta severe its link to Electrogas as the primary procurer of LNG from a floating terminal.

Malta has obtained a derogation on the CEF funds after being refused funding when the European Commission advanced Green New Deal objectives to phase out fossil fuels.

The Connecting Europe Facility could fund up to €200 million for a hydrogen-ready, gas pipeline connecting Malta to the trans-European gas network.

The Council has added an “explicit reference” to article 136 of the EU financial regulation, that enumerates the situations where a person or entity shall be excluded from being selected for receiving EU financing, such as fraud, corruption or conduct related to criminal organisations.

'Grech has failed national interest test' - PL

The Labour Party said Grech’s comments prove he has failed the national interest test by putting doubts on the project and using arguments, he knows are not true.

“When the project is ready, Maltese and Gozitans that will benefit from cleaner air, energy diversification and stable prices. It is also a project, which sole owner will be a state-owned company,” PL stated.

It said the Grech wants to deceive and obstruct the country by undermining the government’s work.