When one’s opinion matters

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 March, 2023 at 2:57 pm by Andre Camilleri

Last week, I shared a status on my social media page informing the public about the protocol for the provision of interpreters within the EU. My interest in the subject came after one of our Maltese MEPs could not deliver his speech in Maltese. Apparently, there were no Maltese interpreters in the room on the day. Essentially, heads of state or government, ministers, parliamentarians, and other foreign dignitaries, are allowed to use their native language when they deliver a speech in one of the EU institutions. There are 24 official languages in the EU, including Maltese. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions to this rule in Council.  

My Facebook status referred to the European Commission and the Directorate General SCIC, which is the department responsible for the interpretation and organisation of conferences in the Commission. However, I did not mention DG LINC, the European Parliament’s arm that supplies interpreters, and which is distinct from that of the European Commission. In response to my status, I received a message in my messenger inbox. The message read that what I wrote about DG SCIC is incorrect because the European Parliament has its own directorate. The person told me it is only fair to correct it.

Obviously, I asked him to double check the facts, so that I rectify my Facebook status. However, my reference to the European Commission was also in view that they are currently busy drafting proposals to accelerate joint military procurement to ramp up the production of ammunitions. Basically, I was trying to depict a situation whereby human resources are inundated with additional work. Indeed, the message read that my reference to the ramping up of military assistance is a non sequitur. I smiled and replied whether the European Commission increased the human resources capacity to keep up with the current scale of additional military work. Clearly, they did not, because prior to leaving Brussels, member states’ direction to the EU Commission was to reduce the cost of administrative staff. However, he told me that his reference was in relation to financial resources and not human resources. In any case, we did not duel on it and carried on chatting.

After a while, it occurred to me that I was replying to someone who I just met virtually. Indeed, I asked him why he popped in to draw my attention about DG LINC. Needless to say, I asked him why I am of so much interest to them. He told me that I am not a person of interest. However, I am an important stakeholder to them. Also, he told me that they follow what I say, here in Malta, because I speak with authority and in-depth knowledge on the subject. Clearly, I burst out laughing because I do this in my free time and also as a pastime. It never occurred to me that I am speaking with authority. Undoubtedly, I had no clue that my opinions are important to them.

Personally, I certainly believe that the current European Commission was allowed to consume inordinate powers. This came at a time when covid-19 pandemic was spreading around the globe. Members States were politically alienated to save their populations, while on their part the European Commission seized the opportunity to exploit the vacuum. The tightening of power over the other institutions is actually chilling. Today, I understand why the European Commission pressed for the inclusion of the term Values under Heading 2 of the MFF along with the terms Cohesion and resilience. The assessment to adhere to EU values is quite subjective. Irrationally, member states granted the European Commission a coercing tool for the assessment of the disbursement of funds.

The current European Commission is looking more controlling in their approach. However, it is unclear who is pushing in this direction. Surely, someone smarter than Martin Selmayr is tightening the grip. I do not think that it is a matter of personalities at the helm, either. And surely it is not the refurbished laundry room in the Berlaymont building.  Undoubtedly, the modus operandi, reminds me of the legendary book, ‘The Road to Serfdom’ by Friedrich von Hayek. Hayek is completely right in concluding that a big government is tantamount to totalitarianism. And this applies to big organisations, as well as huge institutions.

Ahead of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, we were meeting with representatives from the EU Commission. During the first few meetings they were quite condescending, and the narrative was quite demeaning. They came with a dictated plan and tried to monopolise the negotiations. Needless to say, I hardly comply to any imposed decisions. It is one of my distinctive traits, and it comes from my upbringing, as well as my natural instinct. Personally, I believe in compromises and not in blanket decisions. Towards the end of the Maltese Presidency, the new chapter of the financial regulation on financial instruments saw additional responsibilities for the European Investment Bank. I made it a point that the financial guarantees are generally put under their remit to administer, even though the EU Commission resisted the idea to retain them under their control.

Clearly, the undue consumption of power by the European Commission, over the other institutions, must be seriously questioned at this stage, because we are not living in normal times. Given that we are not living in normal times, member states must question the institutions’ concentration of powers. Like everything, there is a price to pay. Over the years, I witnessed countless backstabbers, and deceptive people from all walks of life. The ruthlessness, and the level of dishonesty is not easy to process. Unless one grows a thick skin, it is not easy to survive the toxic political environment. And this applies also to the personalities within the perimeter of the EU institutions.

Lastly, I have an honest advice to the President of the European Council. However, I will refrain from giving it publicly, so as to avoid speaking with authority.

Now, you may gently wish to drop me another message!

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