The Malta Independent 24 January 2020, Friday

Will he go? Questions surround Joseph Muscat’s presence at European Council this week

Sunday, 8 December 2019, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

As political pressure mounts for Joseph Muscat to resign immediately, rather than in January, questions have been raised about his presence at the next European Council meeting in Brussels later this week.

A few months ago, before developments in the investigation into the Daphne Caruana Galizia rocked the country, Muscat was close to obtaining a job in Brussels – or at least that’s what we were told by people close to him.


But his standing in Europe has since been greatly damaged.

The situation has gone from one in which Muscat’s peers were willing to give him a lucrative job within the EU to further his political career, to one in which they do not want to be associated with him.

This was evident last Friday, when an official business lunch with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was cancelled. Conte’s office informed The Malta Independent that the Italian premier had other commitments, but it is very rare for an engagement with a head of government to be cancelled at the last minute.

It was a clear sign that Conte did not want to publicly meet Muscat who, later in the day, also cancelled his participation in a conference on migration that was being held in Rome. Apparently, Muscat felt uncomfortable addressing an international event while facing so much flak in his own country.

Adding to the humiliation, the Vatican relegated Muscat’s visit to Pope Francis yesterday from “official” to “private”, meaning that it was held without the presence of the media. And, later on Saturday, Conte did meet Muscat - but only privately, not in an official capacity.

Muscat’s next official appointment abroad is his participation in the European Council, the traditional end-of-year meeting in which all EU heads of government take part. This will be held in Brussels on Thursday.

The meeting is crucial for Malta’s future. Another marathon session will be deciding allocations for the next EU budget taking us to 2027. Millions are at stake, and yet Malta has to fight for its share with an interim prime minister whose office has been linked to the assassination of a journalist.

With all that has happened in Malta recently, the remaining European heads of government will not look too kindly on Muscat’s demands.

It is hard to imagine Muscat choosing not to go to the summit, although anything can happen in the next few days. But, even if he does, Muscat has lost much of his bargaining power and finds himself in a weakened position.


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