It’s interesting how Malta’s bodybuilder PM is actually quite a queen at heart

The Skinny | No. 62 – The Great Robert-Roberta Impasse

I only have one word for Metsola: Bulgaria.
I only have one word for Metsola: Bulgaria.

What are we skinning? Prime Minister Robert Abela’s refusal to congratulate PN MEP Roberta Abela upon her prestigious and nationally unprecedented appointment as Vice President for the EU Parliament.

Why are we skinning it? Because political immaturity can hardly go uncommented upon, especially now that Donald Trump is at least ostensibly being asked to vacate his seat at the world stage.

But surely the Prime Minister’s refusal to congratulate an MEP from the erstwhile ‘opposing side’ should be his own prerogative? It is, and he is allowed to do as he pleases. But by the same token, we should be allowed the resultant gag-reflex too.

It does seem like a lot of drama for no reason, admittedly. Yes. It’s interesting how Malta’s bodybuilder PM is actually quite a queen at heart.

It’s almost endearing. It is, were it not so dispiriting on the political sphere.

How so? Well, as you yourself alluded to just now, it just seems so unnecessary – the effort dispensed in having to justify not congratulating Metsola certainly outweighs any effort spent in actually congratulating her. But more than anything, Abela’s non-action only serves to entrench a sense of political tribalism that we should have more than moved past by now.

Abela said that he refused to congratulate her due to her consistent criticism of the cash-for-citizenship scheme. More worryingly still, in the same breath he also claimed that the said Individual Investors’ Programme (IIP) has helped to prop up local humanitarian charities like Puttinu Cares.

Shouldn’t the government have an independent way to help these out? Exactly. It’s a statement that reeks of the same unfortunate desperation that the entire fallout of the non-congratulation carries.

But come now, wasn’t Metsola’s – admittedly iconic – ‘talk to the hand’ moment with Joseph Muscat also legendarily petty? That’s true. But there you have it: falling into the tit-for-tat trap is what will keep us circling around the same tribal-political mess the country has been mired in for nearly a century.

At least Glenn Bedingfield congratulated her in parliament. When someone so traditionally hawkish is compelled to pull the short straw of decency, you know the current government has its share of soul-searching to do.

Do say: “While nobody likes tokenistic declarations of support or well-wishing, politicians are pressured to rise above pettiness and appear gentlemanly for a reason: it’s fair to assume that a degree of level-headedness and diplomatic focus can be expected from those heading the country’s most important mechanisms. That Abela chose to go the tribal political path when he’s meant to represent the entire country is both discouraging and worrying.”

Don’t say: “Roberta Metsola should renounce her Maltese passport and just pick a random EU country to fall under instead. That’s how it works, right? It would certainly mean less headaches for all involved. Oh, and one other thing: Bulgaria!”