Malta’s new Brussels chief warns of ‘unfavourable’ presidencies ahead on tax harmonisation

With a 4-3 vote, Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee approves technocrat Daniel Azzopardi as Malta’s next permanent representative in Brussels

Malta's next ambassador in the EU Daniel Azzopardi (Photo: Inigo Taylor)
Malta's next ambassador in the EU Daniel Azzopardi (Photo: Inigo Taylor)

Malta can expect a rough ride as the next batch of EU presidencies includes countries not aligned to its tax position, the new Brussels chief has warned.

Daniel Azzopardi, the head of the Energy and Water Agency, was answering questions put to him by MPs at Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

Azzopardi was nominated by European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli to be the next permanent representative in Brussels after Marlene Bonnici’s term expires next month.

He was approved by the committee with four votes in favour and three against.

Azzopardi said taxes were the competence of the individual member states. Malta’s stand against harmonisation was strengthened by the fact that countries on the periphery had natural handicaps and advantageous tax policies where important to overcome these difficulties.

He said Malta’s stand had found backing by some of the recent member states that occupied the EU presidency but warned of the rough ride ahead.

Azzopardi said the next batch of EU presidencies included member states that are not favourable to Malta’s position.

Malta will also be losing a key ally in the UK, when it exits from the EU in March next year.

Asked on the ongoing European Commission query on the VAT regime for luxury yachts registered in Malta, Azzopardi said he was briefed on the matter but preferred not to divulge details.

“I am aware of the issue and have been briefed but there is ongoing correspondence being exchanged and I would not like to divulge any details,” he told MPs.

Azzopardi said in his role he will try to imbue the understanding among technocrats at Dar Malta that the European Parliament was an important interlocutor.

“I find that psychologically we do not yet understand enough the reality that [the European] parliament is a co-legislator in many areas… I would like to introduce this sense of importance on parliament’s role at the representation,” Azzopardi said, adding he wanted to reach out.

Malta had to listen to concerns raised by MEPs, while at the same time communicating the country’s reality, he added.

Azzopardi had worked in Brussels as a technical attache for almost seven years before being appointed CEO of the energy agency in January 2016 by then energy minister Konrad Mizzi.

Government MPs Robert Abela, Manuel Mallia, Clayton Bartolo and committee chairperson Edward Zammit Lewis voted in favour of Azzopardi’s approval, while Opposition MPs Carm Mifsud Bonnici, David Stellini and Robert Cutajar voted against.

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