The Malta Independent 25 April 2019, Thursday

Updated: EU Commissioner - Race between four to replace Karmenu Vella

Rachel Attard Sunday, 27 January 2019, 09:00 Last update: about 4 months ago

Adds Miriam Dalli reaction

A new European Commission will be appointed in October, and the race is on between four to replace Malta’s representative Karmenu Vella, The Malta Independent has learnt.

Sources close to the government said that two of the four people are senior ministers: Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna and Minister for European Affairs and Equality Helena Dalli; another one is an MEP, Miriam Dalli and the fourth person in the running is former Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, who is currently serving as an adviser to the Cabinet.

If Prime Minister Joseph Muscat chooses to appoint one of the two ministers, Scicluna or Dalli, then a Cabinet reshuffle will be necessary.

The sources said that Scicluna is the favourite to replace Vella. If the Finance Minister accepts the appointment, Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri is likely to take on Scicluna’s portfolio.

Schembri was given a seat in the Cabinet for the first time after the last general election, with the main concern for his promotion to such a delicate position in the Finance Ministry being his relatively young age.

The sources said that if either Dalli or Scicluna are given the job in Brussels, Muscat could bring back his former Tourism Minister, Edward Zammit Lewis. Zammit Lewis lost his seat in the Cabinet after the 2017 general election because he only made it to Parliament via a casual election to fill the seat on the eighth district that was vacated by Scicluna.

Zammit Lewis, who is also a close friend of the Prime Minister, is at present a backbencher and has a number of consultancy services with different government entities.

If MEP Miriam Dalli is chosen, she would be replacing her father-in-law but, given her young age, it is unlikely that she would accept such a post, which is often offered to politicians at the end of their careers. Miriam Dalli is among the favourites to be re-elected to the European Parliament in May.

Louis Grech, who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs in the last legislature, is also being considered as a replacement for Vella. Grech is deemed to be a good candidate because of his experience in both local and EU politics. At present, he is one of Muscat’s Cabinet Advisers, and is held in high esteem by Muscat.

Karmenu Vella resigned from the Maltese Parliament in October 2014 after a 38-year career as a politician with the Labour Party. The Żurrieq native was first elected to Parliament at the age of 26 in 1976 – at the time he was the youngest MP – and was re-elected every time up to the 2013 election.

Vella served as a Minister under four different Prime Ministers: Dom Mintoff, Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici, Alfred Sant and Joseph Muscat. He resigned from the Cabinet in March 2014 after being nominated to become Malta’s representative on the European Commission. For the past five years, he has been the EU Commissioner responsible for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Last November Vella was given a prestigious environmental award in recognition of his work to protect the world’s oceans. He received the German Ocean Award, which is awarded by the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research and Deutsche Bank, under the patronage of the Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein, at a ceremony in Kiel.

'Untruthful speculation' - Miriam Dalli

Reacting on Facebook, Miriam Dalli referred to the report as “untruthful speculation.”

Dalli said she is completely focused on helping the Labour Party get the best possible result at the European Parliament elections and to ensure that the country has a majority of MEPs who look out for the country’s best interest.

Miriam Dalli said she was contesting the EP election to continue to serve and defend her country.

She said she will keep knocking on doors and meeting people, adding that no speculation would lessen her determination. 

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