For sale : access to the decision-taking process

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga has raised another issue as to the extent that revolving door recruitment should be regulated. By revolving door recruitment I am referring to the movement from government service to private sector lobbying and vice-versa of holders of political office as well as of senior civil servants. As a result of such recruitment, an investment is being made in the access to the decision-taking process which is purchased or offered for sale.

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday understandably raised the issue with reference to former Minister John Dalli in the article Revolving doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal  (TMIS 22 January). However, the issue is much wider. It is a matter which is of concern in respect of the manner of operation of lobbying which in this country is largely unregulated. It has already happened not just in Mr Dalli’s recruitment with the Marsovin Group but also when the Corinthia Group recruited both Mr Dalli as well as current EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

It concerns both holders of political office as well as senior civil servants, including senior officers of authorities exercising executive authority.

There is much to learn from foreign jurisdictions as to the manner in which such recruitment should be regulated. A recent example which made the international headlines was the recruitment by Goldman Sachs of Josè Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission.  An ethics panel had described Mr Barroso’s behaviour as morally reprehensible even though it concluded that he was not in breach of the EU Integrity code.

Corporate Europe Observatory had then commented that the Barroso recruitment had “catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda, causing widespread jaw-dropping and reactions of disbelief, making it a symbol of excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.”  Corporate Europe Observatory had also referred to the recruitment of other former European Commissioners by various corporations and emphasised that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that as a result of this behaviour European politicians are seen to be acting for private interests over the public interest.

This is the real significance of revolving door recruitment:  it needs to be ascertained that the potential abuse by holders of political office of milking public office for private gain is regulated. It is not just another layer of regulation or unnecessary bureaucracy.

The issue is however more complex than the recruitment of holders of political office at the end of their political appointment. It is also of relevance even when such holders of political office are appointed to such office from the private sector as can be ascertained through the current hearings by the US Senate of the Trump administration nominees. It is also applicable to senior civil servants from the wider public sector.

Parliament is currently debating a Standards in Public Life Bill, which at this point in time is pending examination at Committee stage. Unfortunately, revolving door recruitment as well as lobbying have not been considered by the legislator!   Revolving door recruitment is an exercise in selling and purchasing access to the decision-taking process. It is high time that it is placed under a continuous spotlight.

published in The Malta Independent: Wednesday 25 January 2017

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Revolving doors: John Dalli and beyond

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga is developing further, much beyond its original obvious intent. The new twist is whether, and to what extent, the use of revolving doors by politicians as soon as their political office draws to an end is permissible.

The use of revolving doors is a reference to the practice of some politicians to join the Board of Directors or team of advisors of business/industry in an area which they would have been responsible for regulating when in office.

The practice in the EU and some other countries is to postpone the possible entry of former Commissioners (holders of political office) in the areas they previously regulated by three years. This signifies that former Commissioners (or Ministers) are forbidden (unless they obtain prior clearance) from joining Boards of Directors and/or organisations  of lobbyists for a number of years.  A case in point was the recent Barroso appointment to the Goldman Sachs Board which whilst being considered as being morally reprehensible was not deemed to be a breach of the EU integrity code.  

As far as I am aware, the Standards in Public Life Bill currently pending before Malta’s Parliament does not address the issue. The issues to be addressed are various. Primarily, however, it is urgent to establish a cooling-off length of time during which time persons active in public life should not take up posts in the private sector in order to ensure the observance of an ethical benchmark.

John Dallis taking up the post of Chairman of Marsovin is only one example. There are various others amongst which the posts which John Dalli himself as well as Karmenu Vella (present Commissioner and former Minister for Tourism) had taken up with the Corinthia Group in the past.

In fairness the applicability of such an ethical standard should also be considered for top civil servants, who should approach the use of revolving doors with extreme caution.  

Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration. It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

Kummissarju għal Malta fi Brussels: raġel jew mara?

Orizzont.300814.cahda KVella

 

Il-ġimgħa l-oħra fl-Orizzont ġie miċħud li kien hemm xi ħsieb li l-Gvern Malti jibdel in-nomina ta’ Karmenu Vella għal Kummissarju Ewropew billi jinnomina mara għall-ħatra floku. L-Orizzont f’artiklu ippubblikat nhar is-Sibt 30 t’Awwissu 2014 iffirmat minn Jake Azzopardi w intitolat Miċħud rapport li ser tiġi nominata mara flok Karmenu Vella jirraporta dak li qal ġurnal fil-Croatia u jiċħad l-istess rapport.

It-Times tal-bieraħ it-Tlieta 2 ta’ Settembru 2014 iġġib il-boċċa ftit iktar qrib il-likk. Tgħidilna li qed issir pressjoni fuq il-Gvern Malti biex flok Karmenu Vella jinnomina mara bħala Kummissarju Ewropew. Din il-pressjoni qed issir mhux biss fuq il-Gvern Malti imma ukoll fuq diversi Gvernijiet oħra. Jean-Claude Junker irid ta’ l-inqas 9 Kummissarji nisa minn fost is-27 Kummissarju li flimkien miegħu ser jiffurmaw il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja l-ġdida. S’issa għad m’għandux 9 Kummissarji nisa. Għandu 6 biss  u ċjoe l-Kummissarji nominati mid-Danimarka, mill-Iżvezja, ir-Repubblika Ċeka, l-Italja, Ċipru u l-Bulgarija. Jonqsu ta’ l-inqas tlett Kummissarji nisa oħra u għalhekk qed issir pressjoni “diplomatika” mit-team ta’ madwar Junker fuq diversi pajjiżi, fosthom fuq Malta biex tinbidel in-nomina ta’ Karmenu Vella. Għax Malta hu wieħed minn dawk il-pajjiżi li sal-lum qatt ma nnominaw mara ghall-post ta’ Kummissarju Ewropew.

Waqt il-kampanja għall-Presidenza tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja Jean-Claude Junker wiegħed lill-Membri tal-Parlament Ewropew li fil-Kummissjoni mmexxija minnu mhux ser ikun hemm inqas nisa milli kien hemm fil-Kummissjoni Barroso II. Issa din il-wegħda qatt ma seta jkun f’posizzjoni li jwettaqha għax in-nomini ma jsirux minnu, iżda mill-Gvernijiet. Imma din id-dikjarazzjoni kienet “commitment” politiku ta’ Junker li issa jidher li qed  tinkwetah.

Fil-Parlament Ewropew il-Ħodor u s-Soċjalisti diġa iddikjaraw li jekk ma jkunx hemm biżżejjed nisa maħtura fuq il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja ma kiexux lesti biex jivvutaw favur il-Kummissjoni. Il-Liberali għal raġunijiet oħra ukoll iddikjaraw vot kuntrarju. Bil-konservattivi, il-lemin estrem, l-ewroxettiċi u oħrajn ukoll jivvutaw kontra l-approvazzjoni tal-Kummissjoni, Jean-Claude Junker jista’ jkun li qiegħed f’diffikulta li jkollu l-Kummissjoni approvata u għaldaqstant qed jipprova jsalva dak li jista’. Għalhekk il-pressjoni fuq il-Gvern Malti biex flok Karmenu Vella tkun innominata mara. Għax mingħajr ta’ l-inqas 9 Kummissarji nisa, jista’ jkun hemm il-periklu li l-Kummissjoni ma tkunx approvata mill-Parlament Ewropew.

Id-diffikulta’ li għandu Joseph Muscat hi li hu għaġġel wisq biex ħatar lil Karmenu Vella. Hu ovvju li l-ħatra ta’ Karmenu Vella saret minħabba l-ħtiġijiet taċ-ċess politiku lokali. Kif wara kollox isir f’pajjiżi oħra ukoll.

Seta, kieku ried, Joseph Muscat ħalla d-deċiżjoni għal iktar tard biex ikollu stampa iktar kompleta ta’ x’jaqbel mhux biss għalih u għall-Partit Laburista, imma ukoll x’jaqbel għall-pajjiż. Hemm xi pajjiżi li għamlu eżattament hekk u ppreżentaw in-nomina tagħhom f’dawn l-aħħar jiem.

Matul il-ġimgħa d-dieħla inkunu nafu liema huma dawk il-pajjiżi li reġgħu ħasbuha u bagħtu mara flok raġel fil-Kummissjoni Ewropeja. Minkejja ċ-ċaħdiet kollha li saru hu possibli li wara kollox Karmenu jibqa’ Birżebbuġa u Brussels imur xi ħaddieħor floku. Jiddependi minn ħafna affarijiet. Fi Brussels għandhom ħabta kif dak li jidher impossibli jsir ftehim dwaru f’ħakka t’għajn, minkejja dak kollu li jkun ilu jingħad!

Imma dwar x’ser jiġri eżatt irridu nistennew ftit ieħor. Wara kollox anke Joseph jista’ jibdel l-opinjoni tiegħu jekk jidhirlu li jkun hemm raġuni valida biex jagħmel dan.

Karmenu Vella + EU

Oxford University dwar kif u għalfejn ħadmu lil John Dalli

 

Dalli.Barroso

Ilna żmien naqraw li l-każ John Dalli fl-Unjoni Ewropeja huwa parti minn eżerċizzju ta’ lobbying mill-industrija tat-tabakk.

Bil-mod il-mod hemm min qed isib id-dettalji dwar kif saret din il-ħadma.

Aqraw ftit din l-istqarrija maħruġa mill-Universita’ ta’ Oxford. L-oriġinal issibuh hawn:

Study identifies EU policy shift on tobacco control after massive industry lobbying

A study has tracked how the dominance of language that first appeared in tobacco industry’s submissions gradually crept into the final drafts of the European tobacco directive passed by the European parliament earlier this year. Using a word coding technique, researchers tracked how the European Commission’s drafts on tobacco control policy changed markedly between 2010 and 2013, resembling tobacco industry submissions much more than those of health groups in the latter stages. The study concludes that the change in the drafts coincided with massive lobbying by the tobacco industry and was ‘associated with significant policy shifts’ towards the tobacco industry. The research in Tobacco Control, published by BMJ, was conducted by the University of Oxford, London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine and the University of Bath.

The research team used a form of automated content analysis, Wordscores, to code the wording of three main drafts of the proposed revision to the European Tobacco Products Directive. They also coded 20 documents from 18 stakeholders (health groups and representatives from the tobacco industry) written between 2010 and 2013, in which the different positions on tobacco controls were expressed. This computer-based technique is widely used to code policy positions of party manifestos and lobbyists, but it is thought to be the first time it has been applied to measure the effects of different lobby groups on tobacco control. The research team scaled Wordscores from 0, reflecting the position of tobacco industry, to 1, reflecting the position of tobacco control advocates. They found that the European documents shifted from a near neutral position of 0.52 (slightly favouring the health groups) to 0.4 (a relative 10% shift towards the tobacco industry position).

Initially, the European Commission’s draft legislation from 2010 was closer to the position of health groups but as it passed through the Commission in 2013 and eventually EU Parliament and Council in 2014, the policy position moved significantly closer to that expressed by the tobacco industry, says the research. The research adds that this shift coincided with the tobacco industry employing over 170 full-time lobbyists and corresponded with a reduction in the proposed size of plain packaging labels, delays to proposed bans on menthol cigarettes, and a scaling back of proposed limits on where cigarettes could be sold. Several stakeholders, including retailers and trade unions, also held positions closer to the tobacco industry over the same period.

The word ‘health’, which appeared in about 1.71% of words in health group submissions, made up around 1.5% of total words in the initial European Commission proposal but only 1.21% of total words in the final approved legislation, says the research. Meanwhile, the researchers found that the root word ‘warn’, used frequently in submissions by health groups, declined from 1.57% to 1.18% in official EU documents.

Researcher Professor David Stuckler from Oxford University said: ‘This study documents a significant policy shift in EU legislation in favour of the tobacco industry following massive lobbying. This shift happened in spite of the fact that all EU countries have signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty developed to protect policy-making from industry manipulation, which is a cause of concern.’

Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Our study shows why we need to tighten up the governance of health policy in the different institutions of the European Union.’

30 minuta għal John Dalli

30 minutes or less

Meta Josè Manoel Barroso, President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, iltaqa’ ma John Dalli nhar  is-16 t’Ottubru 2012 qallu li kien qed jagħtih 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi – jew jitlaq inkella jtellqu.

Wara li iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa l-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja (ECJ) semgħet ix-xhieda ta’ John Dalli, ta’ Josè Manoel Barroso u ta’ oħrajn, kif ukoll wara li l-konsulenti legali kemm ta’ Dalli kif ukoll ta’ Barroso qalu tagħhom, l-affarijiet forsi huma ftit iktar ċari.

Lil John Dalli nafu, mill-viċin. Ħdimt miegħu għal xi żmien. Nistqarr li jiena ftit ippreġudikat favur tiegħu. Kont qiegħed nittama li f’dak li nisma’ jew naqra insib x’imkien xi ħaġa li tispjega dak li ilu jingħad b’mod li jkun  ċar li mexa sewwa.

Dak li qiegħed jingħad m’hu ta’ ġid għal ħadd. Jagħmel il-ħsara lir-reputazzjoni ta’ kulħadd. L-ikbar ħsara li saret s’issa hi lir-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta li jidher illi kull min lablab dwar il-każ ftit li xejn ħa in konsiderazzjoni.

Hemm affarijiet li huma ċari ħafna. Il-każ  hu kumplott mill-industrija tat-tabakk biex tipproteġi lilha inifisha u biex tnaqqas ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-industrija. Il-mira kienet id-Direttiva dwar il-Prodotti tat-Tabakk u l-profitti sostanzjali għall-industrija li jirriżultaw b’inqas  regolamentazzjoni.

John Dalli jidher li għandu raġun meta jinsisti li hemm diversi persuni mlaħħqin fil-Kummissjoni li kienu f’kuntatt inkiss inkiss mal-industrija tat-tabakk. Tant li Corporate Europe Observatory nhar it-2 ta’ Lulju 2014 ħabbret li l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ser tinvestiga 14-il laqgħa li saru minn persuni ta’ madwar Barroso u li m’humiex dokumentati skond ir-regoli tal-EU. Il-Corporate Europe Observatory hi bbażata fi Brussels. Xogħolha hu  biex tgħasses fuq il-lobby tal-industrija u n-negozju u l-impatt tagħhom fuq il-ħidma tal-istrutturi kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Imma minbarra dawn il-laqgħat li Barroso u ta’ madwaru qed jgħidu li ma sarux hemm laqgħat oħra li saru minn John Dalli. John Dalli ikkonferma anke’ fix-xhieda tiegħu quddiem il-Qorti Ewropeja li dawn il-laqgħat saru imma qal li ma ippjanhomx u l-anqas ma kien jaf li dawk li ltaqgħu miegħu kienu mill-industrija tat-tabakk.  Jiġifieri l-inqas li jista’ jingħad hu li tat-tabakk lil Dalli ippruvaw jaħdmuh, u sa ċertu punt irnexxilhom. Imkien ma irriżulta s’issa li Dalli, kif induna x’ġara, informa lill-awtoritajiet kompetenti fi Brussels b’dak li ġara.  L-unika ħaġa li nafu li titfa ftit dawl fuq x’ġara hi x-xhieda ta’ Joanna Darmanin [ara nota 1], li kienet tmexxi s-Segretarjat Privat ta’ Dalli bħala Kummissarju Ewropew fi Brussels. Darmanin nhar it-Tnejn xhedet illi meta staqsiet lil John Dalli jekk hux veru li huwa ltaqa’ ma tat-tabakk, weġibha li jiltaqa’ ma kull min jidhirlu hu. Dan hu statement gravi ħafna, għax waqt li kien Kummissarju John Dalli ma kellux dan id-dritt li jiltaqa’ ma min irid hu. 24 siegħa kuljum kien qed jirrappreżenta lill-Kummissjoni u kellu l-obbligu li jimxi mar-regoli. Dan m’għamlux, anke jekk mhux neċessarjament li hu t-tort tiegħu.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu hu ċar li John Dalli iltaqa’ ma rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk u ma informa b’dan lil ħadd sakemm inqalgħet l-istorja tas-€60 miljun.

Ir-rapport tal-OLAF fuq il-każ kollu hu mimli toqob. Kif sewwa jgħid Dalli innifsu biex sar ir-rapport Giovanni Kesssler wettaq ħafna irregolaritajiet. Waħda mill-MEPs Ġermaniżi membru tal-Kumitat Parlamentari (EU) tal-kontroll tal-budget iddokumentat dawn l-irregolaritajiet  gravi, lista twila.

Dan iwassal għal żewġ konklużjonijiet bażiċi.  L-ewwel li r-rapport ta’ Govanni Kessler għandu jkun skartat u t-tieni li John Dalli, b’konferma tiegħu stess, iltaqa’ b’mod irregolari ma’ rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk. It-tielet konkluzjoni dwar kuntatti irregolari ta’ dawk madwar Barroso mal-industrija tat-tabakk  trid tistenna ftit ieħor sakemm l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ittemm l-investigazzjoni tagħha.

Dan ifisser li John Dalli bħala riżultat li tat-tabakk ħadmuh ma kienx iktar postu fil-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

John Dalli ma kellux bżonn 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi. Kien ilu li ikkomprometta l-posizzjoni tiegħu mill-mument li induna li tat-tabakk ħadmuh u ma għamilx rapport dwar dan.

Hi ħasra li John Dalli aġixxa b’mod daqshekk baħnan. L-irġulija titlob li meta jsir żball nerfgħu r-responsabbilta’ tiegħu.  Wasal iż-żmien li anke John Dalli jagħmel dan il-pass. Il-ħsara li saret hi kbira wisq.

ippubblikat fuq iNews il-Ħamis 10 ta’ Lulju 2014

 

nota 1:

Malta Today irrappurtat hekk online

18:16: Darmanin says she asked Dalli whether he had really met the tobacco representatives. “He said, I meet with whom I like.”

 

Dalli vs Barroso u Kessler : ir-round li jmiss

ceo_carrousel2_0

Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla fil-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja ser jitla’ jixhed Josè Manoel Barroso innifsu biex iwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet ta’ l-Imħallfin fil-kawża li fetaħ John Dalli innifsu.

Dan hu l-ewwel darba li Barroso qed ikun mitlub jixhed dwar il-każ sentejn wara r-riżenja sfurzata ta’ John Dalli minn Kummissarju.

Imma dan mhux kollox. L-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly bdiet tinvestga dwar laqgħat sigrieti bejn il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja u l-Industrija tat-tabakk. Talbet lill-Barroso jispjega u tatu sat-30 ta’ Settembru żmien.

L-investigazzjoni tal-Ombudsman tal-EU bdiet wara li irċeviet ilment mill-NGO Ewropew Corporate Europe Observatory.

Sadanittant f’Malta sirna nafu li Silvio Zammit ġie imwiegħed proklama u li l-konfront bejn John Dalli u Giovanni Kessler jidher li hu pospost!

Il-kobba tkompli titħabbel.

 

 

 

 

 

Wara Barroso min?

Muscat + Junker

Għamel tajjeb il-Gvern Malti li ħabbar illi f’dan l-istadju ser jappoġġa l-kandidatura  tal-ex Prim Ministru tal-Lussemburgu Jean Claude Junker biex dan ikun is-suċċessur ta’ Josè Manuel Barroso. Il-posizzjoni tal-Gvern Malti tirrispetta dak li jipprovdi t-trattat ta’ Liżbona u li ser ikun implimentat għall-ewwel darba issa: fl-għażla tal-President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, il-Kunsill Ewropew [kompost mill-Kapijiet tal-Gvernijiet] għandu jirrispetta r-riżultat elettorali tal-Parlament Ewropew.

Il-posizzjoni li ħa l-Gvern Malti hi posizzjoni tajba mhux biss għax tirrispetta t-trattat ta’ Liżbona, iżda fuq kollox għax dan qed isir fil-konfront ta’ rappreżentant ta’ partit politiku differenti minn dak li jappartjeni għalih  il-partit fil-Gvern f’Malta. Huwa tajjeb li l-ispirtu Ewropew qed isaħħah  l-għeruq f’pajjiżna ukoll!  Jidher, mid-dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ Joseph Muscat, illi Jean Claude Junker ta’ assigurazzjonijiet lill-Gvern Malti illi l-programm tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja mmexxija minnu ser tagħti attenzjoni u enerġija lil proposti dwar l-immigrazzjoni skond ix-xewqa tal-Gvernijiet diversi fil-Mediterran, fuq quddiem net Malta u l-Italja. Dan hu pass tajjeb. Prosit.

Il-Kunsill Ewropew mistenni li jieħu deċiżjoni dwar is-suċċessur ta’ Barroso fis-summit ta’ tmiem ix-xahar. S’issa għadu mhux ċar jekk il-proposta tal-ħatra ta’ Junker hux ser tkun approvata u dan minħabba li hemm numru ta’ Gvernijiet Ewropej li iddikjaraw jew indikaw li ma jaqblux ma dan.

L-iktar li semma’ leħnu kien David Cameron Prim Ministru ta’ dak li sa issa hu r-Renju Unit. Cameron qed jopponi l-ħatra ta’ Junker minħabba l-politika federalist tiegħu (ta’ Junker) li Cameron iqies bħala ostaklu kbir għall-posizzjoni ta’ Cameron li l-Unjoni Ewropeja iżżarma kemm tista’ mir-regolamenti tagħha li ma jikkonċernawx il-kummerċ!

Cameron mhux waħdu. Għandu l-appoġġ tal-Gvernijiet tal-Isvezja, l-Olanda u l-Ungerija.

L-anqas Matteo Renzi, għall-Gvern Taljan, ma jidher li hu kuntent bin-nomina ta’ Junker.

Jekk dawn hux ser jibqgħu waħedhom jew jekk hux ser jiżdiedu fl-opposizzjoni għall-ħatra ta’ Junker għadu ftit kmieni biex inkunu nafu. Imma huwa importanti għax il-ħatra ta’ Junker teħtieġ l-approvazzjoni ta’ maġġoranza kwalifikata: 55% tal-pajjizi membri li jirrappreżentaw 65% tal-popolazzjoni Ewropeja.

Jekk il-Kunsill Ewropew japprova l-ħatra ta’ Jean Claude Junker bħala President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, imbagħad ikun imiss l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament Ewropew. Fil-Parlament Ewropew l-opinjonijiet huma ħafna iktar ikkuluriti. Għalissa xejn ma hu assigurata, l-anqas hemm.  Wara l-aħħar ta’ dan ix-xahar, kif ukoll meta l-programm politiku ta’ Junker ikun magħruf imbagħad l-affarijiet ikunu ftit iktar ċari.

Nistennew u naraw.

ippubblikat fuq iNews: it-Tlieta 17 ta’ Ġunju 2014

Sharing our responsibilities

lampedusa-letta-e-barroso-contestati

The Lampedusa tragedy was a tragedy waiting to happen. .

Human persons in need of help have been on our doorstep, Europe’s doorstep. The help they sought was not available.

Malta has a government which belongs to that family of political parties, the socialist family, which describes itself as being the champion of the vulnerable and the downtrodden. In migration policy, in just seven months, the Labour Party led government in Malta has failed miserably in living up to its core values.

At this point in time none are more vulnerable than migrants fleeing persecution: in particular Somalis and Eritreans who account for the vast majority of migrants at this doorstep of Europe. The Labour Party in Government is not interested in their plight. It is more interested in a populist discourse to impress its hangers-on. Labour’s populism has diluted its core values  beyond recognition.

Labour’s push-back policy was not implemented due to the timely intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Those who think that  Joseph Muscat’s pushback policy was an exercise in bluff would do well to remember that  when still Leader of the Opposition Joseph Muscat had made statements on the need to suspend Malta’s international obligations if faced with large numbers of boat-people.

Many crocodile tears are currently being shed by those who in the past weeks advocated a hard-line inhumane attitude. Those who advocated push-backs are apparently shocked by what has happened.

Are they?

When we criticise the European Union for tackling immigration inappropriately we are also criticising ourselves as since May 2004 Malta and the Maltese are an integral part of the European Union. Malta forms part of each and every decision-taking structure within the European Union. Together with all the other member states Malta participates whenever a decision is taken.

The European Union needs a common migration policy which recognises that each and every refugee within its borders is its responsibility. The border states like Malta, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are shouldering a disproportionate responsibility which must be shared by all  members states.

So far, in the struggle between life and death the European Union (Malta included) has not opted to give adequate assistance to the living. As a result we are collectively responsible for the Lampedusa deaths. It is useless shedding tears for the dead if we did not respect them when they were still alive.

The Lampedusa tragedy was no accident. It is the direct consequence of the fact that on migration there is still a free for all in the European Union. A common policy is required to give flesh to practical solidarity and bury once and for all the culture of indifference.

The Greens in Europe are all in favour of responsibility sharing. That is, the recognition by European Union institutions that once a migrant crosses the EU borders he is its responsibility. Common borders are not just a tool for the payment of customs duties. A humanitarian migration policy is a must in every corner of the European Union. Crossing the border into the European Union should mean moving into an area which respects every human person, with no exceptions being permitted.

A first step would be amending what is known as the Dublin Convention such that the arrival of a migrant within any of the member states would not signify any more that he is restricted to remain in the country of arrival. Such an amendment to the Dublin Convention would facilitate the movement of migrants within the European Union and, consequently, their applying for refugee status, if this is applicable,  within any one of the member states.

This is the official policy of the European Green Party to which policy Alternattiva Demokratika has contributed considerably through constructive engagement with our European partners. The Greens in Europe are the only European Political Party which has fully appreciated the situation which EU border states are facing. Without any stamping of feet or smelling “pushover” coffee the European Green Party is the foremost proposer and supporter of an EU which shoulders its responsibilities through a policy of migration responsibility sharing.

The others just stamp their feet and indulge in inconsequential rhetoric interspaced with crocodile tears.

It is about time that the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party accept that their approach to migration has failed. They should take a leaf from the policy book of the European Greens and seek to convince their partners in the European Union of the need to share responsibility for migration with the border states.

Whether the Lampedusa tragedy will serve as a wake-up call is still to be seen. The comments from Jose Barroso and Cecilia Malmström at Lampedusa on Wednesday are good indications.

Well Muscat can smell that coffee now.

As published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 12 October 2013

Rocco and the ghosts of Eritreia

In 2004 Rocco Buttiglione was Silvio Berlusconi’s surprise choice for EU Commissioner.  Jose’ Manuel Barroso identified him as suitable for the post of Commissioner designate for Justice, Freedom and Security.

When grilled by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee  Rocco Buttiglione stated that he viewed homosexuality as a sin.  I do not think that Tonio Borg will use the same fundamentalist vocabulary of Rocco Buttiglione. He is however on record during the parliamentary debate on rent reform as being one of those opposing tenancy rights for same sex couples on a level identical to those of heterosexual couples.

A substantial number of MEPs will certainly not be amused. One Rocco is more than enough.

If this was not enough Tonio Borg will have to give account of decisions taken in 2002 on the repatriation of Eritrean asyslum-seekers. They were sent back to be tortured in Eritreia.

A 2009 report published by Amnesty International is entitled “Eritreia: sent home to detention and torture.”

The following extract from page 7 of the said report does not require any comment:

“Malta forcibly returned 230 Eritrean nationals to Eritrea in 2002. They were detained on arrival in Asmara at the Adi Abeto detention centre, accused of betraying their country, and tortured as punishment. With the exception of children, some women, and those over the age of 40, those returned from Malta are believed to remain in incommunicado detention. About 30 of them were able to escape and they fled to Sudan in 2003. Amnesty International was able to collect their testimonies about detention conditions and torture. One escaped detainee said: “There were interrogation rooms and we were being called one at a time, with two guards, one asking the questions, the other doing the beating.” The Government of Malta stated that they had not received “any evidence that any ill-treatment was afforded to the Eritreans repatriated from Malta.” However, by February 2004 they had released all remaining Eritreans to non-custodial hostels to wait for resettlement. In December 2008, Malta and Eritrea agreed to “establish diplomatic relations” with a view to increasing co-operation between the two countries. This has raised concerns that Malta might again consider forcibly returning failed or non-assessed Eritrean asylum seekers.”

Tonio Borg has a lot of explaining to do.

originally published on di-ve.com, Friday 26 October, 2012