Dalligate is not my preferred subject to write about - were it not for an interesting Skype conversation I have just had with an expatriate friend who , years back, run a successful export outfit here for over a decade.
The man loved Malta, still does. He couldn’t resist phoning me specifically to congratulate us on assuming full membership of the European Union eight years ago. And, again four years afterwards, on the adoption of the euro as our currency.
Last December he happened to be holidaying here when Britain’s PM vetoed the EU’s proposal for treaty changes to introduce strict procedures for fiscal governance necessitated by a persistent crisis in Europe’s financial markets. I remember him forecasting that, unless constitutional commitments to fiscal discipline were introduced in member states, especially those adopting the single currency, the markets would refuse to take seriously what politicos preached, and the crisis would be prolonged.
Exactly the way events have unfolded during the last ten months. Even worse. That why the EU’s summits have so far been ineffectual. “ Talk, talk…” was how he described the EU top-notch meetings so far this year in preparation for the ‘great’ summit in December which is planned to decide measures on banking supervision leading eventually to a union, fiscal cooperation and, more importantly, on the quantum of the next EU budget which, again, risks being torpedoed by Britain.
Last week my European friend was online with me expressing his sadness that Malta’s good name was being besmirched by Dalligate. At first I thought he was joking when he asked whether the PL could conceivably be behind such a murky affair, even if inadvertently or tangentially. “Where on earth did you get such a preposterous notion? “ I asked in disbelief on realising that he wasn’t joking. I almost retched when he referred me to an insert by a local blogger he described as ‘the bitch’ the day after Dalli was forced to resign his commission. Glad my dog couldn’t read: he would have become cross with me for not defending canine integrity.
Whilst declining to pass judgement or even express an opinion, my friend unhesitatingly attributed Dalligate to the ingrained noxious culture in Malta of cabinet ministers’ over-reliance on and blind trust in their canvassers in the execution of their constituency duties. To the extent of allowing them full and extensive freedom to speak and act in their name, sometimes for a monetary kickback to the canvassers, but mostly unaware of such unsavoury happenings. He referred me to what John Dalli himself had told a The Times interviewer, i.e. when canvassers need something or when they have friends who need something, they feel greatly important. “It is the usual political game in Malta”.
He recalled a past episode concerning the tidiness of an industrial estate for which each manufacturing unit had been contributing. For weeks on end the place remained a shambles. Immediately someone decided to ‘speak’ to a minister’s driver-canvasser, the place was cleaned up in a jiffy. For a ‘consideration’, naturally.
My friend got it right - spot on.