Former PN leader Simon Busuttil turned down for EASO director post

Former Opposition leader applied to become EASO executive director, indicating his search for an exit from politics

Former Opposition leader and Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil
Former Opposition leader and Nationalist MP Simon Busuttil

Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil has been turned down for the job of executive director of the European Union Asylum Office.

The Nationalist MP applied for EASO’s top position in 2018, a year after having resigned his post as leader in the wake of the PN’s loss in the general elections.

Busuttil applied for the post after the agency’s former executive director, José Carreira, stepped down in June amid allegations of staff harassment, “including psychological violence” and an investigation by OLAF, the bloc’s anti-fraud office.

Busuttil was shortlisted in the first tranche of applicants but he appears not to have made it into the final list of successful applicants. The final decision for an executive director with an estimated salary of €168,000 has not been taken yet.

A senior EU source told MaltaToday that applicants traditionally seek support from their country of origin’s government. Busuttil – somewhat naturally – opted not to seek the support of the Maltese government.

The application for the post was scheduled to close by the end of last September and could also oblige the EASO director to be based in Athens.

The significance of Busuttil’s decision to apply for a top EU job indicates his decision to move out of politics. Indeed, in comments to aides Busuttil had insisted that his interest was primarily restricted to the Panama Papers and seeking justice on the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Busuttil was the Nationalist Party’s most popular MEP when he was elected twice, in 2004 and 2009. As MEP he enjoyed a high standing inside the European People’s Party, distinguishing himself in the field of migration, amongst other policy areas.

In 2012, he stepped down to run for deputy leader of the PN, and was later elected leader in 2013.

He led a vociferous campaign against the Labour government, culminating with the Panama Papers scandal in 2016 and later, in the Egrant affair, where he embraced allegations by Caruana Galizia that Joseph Muscat’s wife was the owner of a secret offshore company. The allegations were never proven in a subsequent magisterial inquiry in 2018. He was stripped of his portfolio for good governance by Adrian Delia in a botched attempt to force his resignation from MP.

He stepped down in June 2017, giving way to the election of a new leader by paid-up members rather than by party delegates, a historic first in Maltese politics, but he showed himself to be opposed to Adrian Delia’s candidature due to allegations pertaining to corporate services he rendered to a Maltese property owner connected to prostitution in London.