The Malta Independent 22 May 2019, Wednesday

Prime Minister in the dock

Noel Grima Sunday, 16 September 2018, 09:47 Last update: about 9 months ago

I watched most of the European Parliament sitting on Tuesday, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the dock facing an enraged Parliament with smirks, winks and comments with his immediate entourage.

The vote, the next day, was heavily against Orban but until the eve, nobody could be certain because Fidesz, Orban's party, is still a member of the European People's Party and nobody knew how the EPP MEPs would vote.

Still, the vote and the aftermath showed up the immense fragility of the EU -  far, very far, from the gruesome monolith that the Brexit people, for instance, believe.

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Do you think that the negative vote against Orban will have any effect? Not at all - at least as far as I can see.

The issue will now pass on to the Council of Ministers and a number of countries have already declared that they will not vote for sanctions against Hungary and some may even veto such sanctions.

In Malta, Prime Minister Muscat condensed his reactions in a  standing Q&A after an event. He spoke of mediation efforts at Council level but then threatened a veto in a proposed Council directive about a common tax.

When even the leader of the smallest country in the bloc is ready to block an initiative by far bigger countries which aims at sustaining the beleaguered economy of the bloc, that bloc is as strong as its weakest link.

The European Parliament, now in a paroxysm of activity before May's elections, is being revealed as a toothless institution, a place for talk but not for action.

On a local level, yet another visit by the EU committee investigating the rule of law in Malta will not be able to interview PM Muscat since he will be at an EU summit. So will happen in Slovakia, where another EU committee is due.

Orban, and Poland's government, are thus free to continue going their own way, despite grumbles and threats by the EU elite. Their voting rights will not be suspended and this is the clue as to why other countries will be tempted to disregard threats of EU sanctions and go their own way.  The next to be tempted will be Italy, with a Eurosceptic government.

And at this very moment when the UK is leaving the Union because the EU is too overbearing and rides roughshod over the member states, the other member states are finding out that the emperor has no clothes, and the EU no teeth.

"Your country is the most corrupt country in Europe," thundered Guy Verhofstadt, obviously referring to Hungary. But in the course of the debate, other countries were mentioned : Romania and Bulgaria - and even Malta. One could add others: Estonia for the Danske Bank scandal, Cyprus for the banking crisis, Luxembourg for the sweetheart deals with big companies at the time when Jean-Claude Juncker was PM, etc., etc.

And yet the EU that has been built up despite these scandals, although not complete yet, is a haven of peace for its inhabitants, an economic bloc that has again found the growth path, a continent that has not followed the US in ultra-libertarian ways and that has privileged social legislation and frameworks and a continent that, as those who venture beyond its shores find out, has standardised and simplified modern living in the face of the increasing complexity of living.

Once again, this is a Europe of peoples, not the behemoth ogre of the eurosceptics.  As someone said during the EP debate, Orban is PM because the people chose him. I can think of many others to whom those words apply.

 

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