Karmenu Vella and the plastic tax

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, is enthusiastic about the possibility of a plastic tax being introduced throughout the EU. In his view, this tax – if properly designed – could be one of a number of tools for delivering environmental objectives as well as providing budgetary income. Planet Earth is drowning in plastic.

Vella made these comments in an interview published on Euractive last week on the subject of the EU’s new plastics strategy.

We have been there before and maybe it is time to consider the matter once more in Malta. Some 10 years ago in Malta we had an environmental tax which was known as an “eco-contribution”. It was a valid proposal, badly designed and arrogantly implemented. The lessons learnt from that exercise could, if properly analysed, lead to the development of effective policy tools addressing the generation of waste in the Maltese islands. Policies should be well thought out and not developed as a result of panic – as is clearly the case with the current government incineration proposal.

Ten years ago, the eco-contribution tried to address the generation of plastic waste including “single-use plastic”. This is one of the primary targets of the EU plastics strategy published on the 16 January.

Its title is very clear : A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Plastic is ubiquitous: it is present in all aspects of our economy and our daily lives. The plastics we use must be such that they can be re-used rather than thrown away. It is an important resource which can be put to good use rather than thrown away or incinerated.

It is for this purpose that the newly-published plastics strategy lays the foundations for a new plastics economy where “the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed and promoted”.

A plastics economy would definitely not send “waste plastic” to the incinerator to be converted into energy. Even Malta’s latest version of the Waste Management Strategy, approved in 2014, emphasises that our approach to waste must be one based on the sustainable use of resources and, in line with the EU waste hierarchy, gives priority to recycling over incineration.

In fairness, it has to be said that our government’s advisors on incineration have already sounded the alarm. Apparently this has not, as yet, been understood – either by the government or by the Opposition. It would be pertinent to point out that the Special Assignment Report by Jaspers dated 23 February 2017 on a Waste to Energy (WtE) project in Malta specifically emphasises that “it would be difficult to justify a WtE facility that is not based on low waste growth and high recycling”.

Rather than talking about incineration, it is about time we discussed in detail the implementation of our Waste Management Strategy in order to identify why it has not to date succeeded in increasing Malta’s recycling rates. What initiatives need to be taken in order that the waste generated in Malta is minimised?

Malta’s waste management strategy, now complemented by the EU’s Plastic Strategy, is definitely a much better roadmap than the documentation encouraging incineration. And what about our commitments to encourage a “circular economy” : gone with the wind?

Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax is food for thought.

It is about time that Wasteserve is managed properly. As a first step, it should stick to its brief and seek to implement carefully the Waste Management Strategy, which establishes the year 2050 as the year when we should achieve a “Zero Waste Target”. This target will not be achieved through the use of incineration but through a policy encouraging waste minimisation as well as recycling.

This is not just a task for the Minister responsible for the Environment. The Minister responsible for the Development of the Economy also has a very important role to play in achieving a successful implementation of the Waste Management Strategy.

Unfortunately he is apparently completely absent.

Zero waste municipalities in Europe are continuously indicating that an 80 to 90 per cent recycling rate is achievable. The fact that Malta’s recycling rate is, at best, estimated at around 12 per cent, is a clear indication that there is room for substantial improvement – with or without Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 28 January 2018



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

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



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

Fin-Naxxar: il-bye-election ta’ Karmenu Vella

Karmenu Vella bye-election


Nhar il-Ħamis iNews huma u jirrappurtaw l-andament tal-bye-election ta’ Karmenu Vella irrappurtaw hekk:

“12:15: Hekk kif bħalissa qed joqrob lejn tmiemu t-tielet għadd, wasal fis-sala tan-Naxxar id-Deputat Chairperson ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika, Carmel Cacopardo, li wkoll qed jsegwi bir-reqqa l-andament. Cacopardo wkoll kien ikkontesta l-elezzjoni ġenerali fuq il-ħames distrett.”

Fil-waqt li hu minnu li nhar il-Ħamis għall-12.15pm kont fis-sala tal-għadd tal-voti fin-Naxxar tajjeb li nippreċiża li s’issa għadni qatt ma ikkontestajt l-Elezzjoni Ġenerali fuq il-Ħames Distrett.

Tlajt fis-sala tal-għadd tal-voti għal xi siegħa biex nosserva mill-qrib il-voti u l-mod kif kienu qed jitqassmu l-preferenzi. Wara l-ewwel għadd l-affarijiet kienu ċari ħafna. L-għadd innifsu kien qed juri distakk ta’ madwar 350 vot bejn il-Professur Zammit u l-Farell. Imma l-voti li kien qed jakkumula Robert Bugeja kienu qed juru sa minn kmieni li dak id-distakk seta jonqos sostanzjalment inkella jisparixxi. Kif fil-fatt ġara. F’numru kbir mill-voti ta’ Bugeja l-Professur Zammit kellu bejn il-11 u t-13-il preferenza!

Għax numru mhux żgħir ta’ votanti, fir-realta’, waqt li ġeneralment jivvutaw b’mod raġunat l-ewwel erbgħa sa ħames preferenzi, ftit li xejn jagħtu każ tal-preferenzi ta’ wara. Numru żgħir ma jkomplux filwaqt li oħrajn ikomplu jagħtu l-preferenzi mingħajr xi ordni preferut. Ġeneralment jibqgħu nieżlin alfabetikament wara r-raba’ jew il-ħames preferenza. Allura s-sekwenza tal-preferenzi li jibqa’ tiddependi minn fejn ikun tniżżel in-numru 4 jew in-numru 5!

Kważi dejjem hekk ġara u din id-darba ma kienitx eċċezzjoni. Eċċezzjonijiet ftit ikun hemm u din ma kienitx waħda minnhom!


Karmenu Vella : wirja fqira ħafna fi Brussels

Karmenu Vella.Brussels 290914


Il-wirja ta’ Karmenu Vella illum huwa u jwieġeb il-mistoqsjiet tal-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej kienet waħda fqira.

Mhux biss ma kellux għarfien adegwat tal-oqsma ambjentali, talli ma wera l-ebda ħeġġa jew viżjoni dwar d-diversi oqsma li kien mistoqsi dwarhom. Tant li Claude Turmes, il-membru Parlamentari tal-Ħodor tal-Lussemburgu ħass il-ħtieġa li jsaqsieħ jekk Juncker taħx struzzjonijiet biex ma jikkommettix ruħu.

Tlift il-kont ta’ kemm il-darba ma kienx f’posizzjoni li jirrispondi, ma tax risposta jew qagħad idur mal-lewża. Buzz-words uża kemm trid. Imma meta kien mitlub ikun konkret f’dak li qed jgħid naqas milli jagħmel dan.

Anke dwar id-Direttiva dwar l-Għasafar żelaq meta ipprova jgħid x’għandu f’moħħu Juncker meta taħ l-inkarigu biex jikkonsolida din id-Direttiva u dik dwar il-Habitats. L-ikbar ċertifikat tawhulu l-Birdlife International meta qalu li : I don’t think we can feel reassured in any way by his performance.

Minkejja dan kollu l-Grupp Soċjalista hu sodisfatt u l-grupp tal-Popolari jafu li x’aktarx li ser ikollhom jitwikkew bih, għax hekk ftehmu ma’ Gianni Pitella u Martin Schultz. Inkella Juncker ma jkollux l-appoġġ tas-Soċjalisti!

Imma x’ser jiġri eżatt għadu mhux ċar, għax għad irridu naraw kif ser imorru l-Kummissarji kollha. Imbagħad jibdew jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet.

Nagħlaq b’kumment tal-Greens fil-Parlament Ewropew dwar Karmenu Vella:

Do you think he is suitable for the portfolio he has been assigned?

Not really. He is fully loyal to the political direction that has been outlined by Commission president-elect Juncker. He is capable of lip service on sustainable development (green growth), but did not demonstrate any willingness to take on industry opposition. He lacks commitment and conviction about the issues. It is difficult to imagine him confronting commissioners defending industry interests. He did not come across as a fighter, which is disappointing for one of the most important commissioners for the Greens.

Għall-kummenti kompleti tal-Greens dwar Karmenu Vella agħfas hawn.


Karmenu Vella : kontroversja bla ħtieġa

Junker + Vella


Għada waranofsinnhar Karmenu Vella jippreżenta ruħu biex ikun eżaminat minn żewġ kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew.

Fid-dibattitu pubbliku li ilu għaddej mill-10 ta’ Settembru 2014, id-diffikulta prinċipali mhiex il-persuna ta’ Karmenu Vella, imma d-deċiżjoni politika li ħa Jean Claude Juncker dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet li assenja lil Karmenu Vella u lil oħrajn. Fl-ittra li ntbagħatet mill-Grupp tal-Ħodor lil Jean Claude Juncker nhar il-Ġimgħa li għaddiet dan kien ċar ħafna u jpoġġi f’perspettiva l-argumenti kollha.

Karmenu Vella il-persuna jidher li ma hu fil-mira ta’ kważi ħadd. L-unika kritika diretta lejh kienet dik tal-Corporate Europe Observatory. Għalhekk ma nistax nifhem kif fl-aħħar siegħat ħoloq il-kontroversja hu stess meta ġew ippubblikati t-tweġibiet li kien mitlub jagħti bil-miktub għal xi mistoqsijiet li sarulu. Hi kontroversja li kien ikunu ħafna għaqli li kieku evita. Imma tawh pariri ħżiena!

Il-gazzetti tal-lum (apparti l-Kullħadd u t-Torċa li baqgħu siekta) kienu mimlijin bil-kummenti li juru kemm Karmenu Vella żbalja bl-ikraħ meta qal li hu ivvota biex Malta tissieħeb fl-Unjoni Ewropeja meta hu ċar li sa ftit ġranet qabel il-votazzjoni tar-referendum tal-2003 hu kien involut b’mod attiv favur il-LE, anke f’dibattitu fuq it-TV.

Issa din kienet kontroversja bla ħtieġa għal Karmenu Vella. Imma kontroversja li ħalliet togħma morra ma bosta. Hawn Malta ħadd m’hu jemmen dak li qal Karmenu Vella dwar kif ivvota. X’ser jagħmlu l-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej ma nafx. Naf biss li ħadd m’hu ta’ subgħajh f’ħalqu. Dawk minnhom li jsegwu x’inhu jiġri jafu l-posizzjoni li ħa l-Partit Laburista f’Malta dwar is-sħubija fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Min minnhom għaldaqstant jifhem x’qiegħed iħarref Karmenu Vella bil-fors li ser ikollu d-dubju dwar it-tweġbiet l-oħra li Karmenu Vella jagħti fuq l-Ambjent, is-Sajd u l-Politika Marittima. Għax il-loġika tgħidlek li jekk ma ssibhiex bi kbira li tħarref fuq ħaġa l-anqas m’int ser issibha bi kbira li tħarref fuq affarijiet oħra.

B’mod oġġettiv, kieku l-kumitati parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew kellhom jiddeċiedu fuq il-kompetenzi individwali tal-kummissarji proposti, madwar 6 minn dawk proposti ma jkunux approvati. Imma nafu li l-Parlament Ewropew u l-Kumitati tiegħu ma jaħdmux hekk sakemm ma jkun hemm affarijiet ta’ serjeta’ kbira li jistunaw. Dejjem sakemm ma jkunx hemm xi gaffe bħalma għamel Rocco Buttiglione fl-2004 inkella sakemm il-Kummissarju li jkun qed iwieġeb ma jweġibx b’mod adegwat mistoqsijiet dwar dak li jidher bħala l-konflitt ta’ interess tiegħu jew tagħha kif kien ġrala l-Bulgara Rumiana Jeleva fl-2010.  Sakemm ma jiġrix hekk hu probabbi li l-Kummissjoni tkun approvata kollha kif propost u dan bl-appoġġ tal-Popolari u s-Soċjalisti kif ukoll tal-Liberali.

Pero jekk jinqala’ dak li mhux previst ma tistax tgħid x’jiġri.

Karmenu Vella jipprova jgħaddina biż-żmien

Karmenu Vella + Dom Mintoff 3


Meta qrajt it-tweġibiet li Karmenu Vella kiteb għas-sensiela ta’ mistoqsijiet li għamlulu mill-Parlament Ewropew l-ewwel reazzjoni tiegħi kienet li Karmenu Vella qiegħed jipprova jgħaddina biż-żmien. Għax kif tista’ tispjega li membru prominenti tax-Shadow Cabinet ta’ Alfred Sant ma jaqbilx mal-Kap tiegħu fuq l-issue tas-sħubija ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja u ma jiftaħx ħalqu?

Qabel illum qatt ma smajt lil Karmenu Vella jgħid x’jaħseb dwar l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Qatt ma smajtu jgħid li jaqbel bħalma qatt ma smajtu jgħid li ma jaqbilx.

Ma nafx kif tippretendi li tkun rispettat jekk tipprova tgħaddi ż-żmien bin-nies.

Karmenu Vella ma qalx li reġa’ bdielu matul dawn il-11-il sena mir-referendum. Ma qalx li kellu riżervi dwar l-Unjoni Ewropeja li biż-żmien iċċara l-opinjoni tiegħu dwarhom. Le. Qal li ivvota favur is-sħubija.

Imma allura meta l-Konferenza Ġenerali tal-Partit Laburista iddeċidiet dwar il-posizzjoni tal-Partit Laburista fuq l-Unjoni Ewropeja ma jidhirlix li kien hemm il-vot ta’ Karmenu Vella kontra. L-anqas l-opinjoni tiegħu dwar is-suġġett qatt ma nstemgħet la fil-Konferenza Ġenerali u l-anqas tul is-snin.

Kien ikun iktar rispettat Karmenu Vella kieku kellu l-kuraġġ jgħid il-verita’.

Għandi kull rispett lejn kull Laburist li fl-2003 għażel li jivvota kontra s-sħubija ta’ Malta fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Naf diversi minnhom. Diversi għadhom isostnu li għamlu sewwa. Uħud tul is-snin bidlu l-opinjoni. Imma għadni qatt ma ltqajt ma Laburist li jiċhad dak li għamel.

Kulħadd għandu d-dritt li jkollu d-dinjita’ tiegħu rispettata. Imma min ma jirrispettax lilu nnifsu kif jista’ qatt jippretendi li ħaddieħor jirrispettah?

Dan huwa l-ewwel kumment tiegħi fuq it-tweġibiet li ta’ Karmenu Vella għall-questionnaire. Ser ikolli nikteb iktar, għax hemm diversi affarijiet li jgħid Karmenu Vella li huwa neċessarju li jkunu mwieġba. Għax ħadd m’għandu dritt li jgħaddina biż-żmien.

Its BBQ time

Karmenu Vella + Dom Mintoff

On Monday 29 September at 2.30pm Karmenu Vella, Malta’s nominee to the Juncker led EU Commission will meet with Members of the European Parliament who sit on the Parliamentary Committees dealing with the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. They will listen to his introductory views on the responsibilities which he has been assigned and subsequently they will ask questions.

For three hours they will listen to his answers after which they will decide whether in their opinion he is suitable for the post to which he has been nominated, that is as EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The MEPs will be interested to hear Karmenu Vella explain as to how he will go about with the proposed revision and possible consolidation of the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directives which matter he was specifically instructed by Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker to take in hand. These views are especially significant in view of the quasi unconditional support which the Labour Party in Malta gives to hunters and trappers. The European Voice on Monday 22 September paraphrased it very accurately when it stated that: the matter “is particularly sensitive because Malta has been in repeated and continued violation of these laws because of bird hunting.” Will Karmenu Vella, for example, in view of the Labour’s experiences in Malta seek to sanction spring hunting within the rest of the EU? MEPs will undoubtedly be very eager to learn about what possiblies lies ahead if EU Environmental governance is dependent on Karmenu Vella!

In the letter of appointment Jean-Claude Juncker identified 5 clear targets which Karmenu Vella has to attain, namely:

  1. The overhaul of existing environmental legislative framework,
  2. The European Union strategy about the quality of air,
  3. The circular economy and the results achieved to date and in the light of the first reactions of the European Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
  4. The implementation of the common fisheries policy,
  5. Active participation in international fora on the Oceans within the United Nations and other multilateral and bilateral fora.

MEPs would be very much interested as to what is in store as a result of environmental deregulation. Which legislative instruments will be targeted? How will Karmenu Vella in his role as Commissioner  seek to ensure that the protection which the EU has to date afforded to both man and the eco-system is not dismantled but rather reinforced?

The European Chemicals Agency which deals with the implementation of the REACH Directive has been removed from the Environment portfolio and transferred to the portfolio dealing with Enterprise. This is not a matter which Karmenu Vella has to answer for but it is indicative as to the forces at play on Juncker’s table. The REACH Directive is not considered as an environmental matter by Jean-Claude Juncker. In his opinion it has to be administered primarily in the interests of enterprise, that is of business and industry.

Committees of the European Parliament will by now have digested the experiences of former European Commissioner John Dalli. As a result they would be more than interested about Karmenu Vella’s contacts with the business world, about his thoughts on lobbying as well as what he think’s transparency is all about.

A report published by the Corporate Europe Observatory earlier this month is entitled: Do not bet on the commissioner: the case of Karmenu Vella of Malta.  Since this report emphasises that Karmenu Vella “is not suitable to be a commissioner” the members of the Committees of the European Parliament would undoubtedly wish to hear from Karmenu Vella as to why, in his opinion they should arrive at a different conclusion.


published in The Malta Independent : Wednesday 24th September 2014

Squeezing Labour’s balls

squeezing the ball


Last week’s hunting related incidents and the reactions of Joseph Muscat’s government is clear indication that Malta’s Labour Party is fed up of being blackmailed by the hunting lobby. It is realising, just eighteen months into this administration’s life that the hunting lobby has been squeezing Labour’s balls for far too long. It seems that Labour has finally found the appropriate time to ensure that the hunting lobby let go.

But will they?

Its much more than the need not to embarrass Commissioner-designate Karmenu Vella in next week’s hearing at the European Parliament. It is in fact the direct result of Juncker’s challenge through the determination of Vella’s portfolio.

Earlier this month the Guardian, in what is most probably the most accurate assessment of Juncker’s strategic thinking, stated that “Juncker is effectively calling the bluffs.”

The Guardian, analysing Juncker’s nominations, has concluded that Jean-Claude is putting a number of national governments on the spot. Specifically referring to the British, French, Hungarian, Greek, German and Dutch designate-Commissioners the Guardian argues that Juncker has strategically placed them in charge of policy areas which their national governments have a problem with.

Even though the Guardian did not refer to Karmenu Vella’s portfolio it is pretty obvious that Vella fits the bill perfectly. Karmenu Vella as Environment Commissioner will have very little room to manoeuvre in order to accommodate Muscat’s hunting and trapping commitments and hence if Muscat opts to continue to defy the EU environmental acquis he will be in for a lot of trouble and embarrassment.  Karmenu Vella will be the reluctant executioner. Joseph Muscat clearly wants to avoid this.

This is Juncker’s gamble as a result of which the squeeze on Labour’s balls may get worse.