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MT 18 September 2016

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maltatoday, SUNDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 24 Opinion The EU doesn't know what it just threw away… I t was most likely a coincidence, but the day before Leo Brincat's nomination for the European Court of Auditors was rejected by the European Parliament last Tuesday… the same Court of Auditors revealed that it had opposed the membership of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, because they were 'not ready' at the time. That in itself seems entirely unrelated to Brincat's nomination… until you notice the extraordinary resemblance between the wording of the ECA's report, and Brincat's own replies to MEPs' questions the following day. The ECA report quotes a certain Ist van Szabolcs Fazakas, who was part of the committee that had adjudicated Bulgaria and Romania's readiness to join the EU in 2006. Fazakas says that "these countries needed more time to prepare for accession, so that European money could be absorbed in a correct way." But when he informed then Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, the reply he received was: "Sorry, it's too late, my hands are tied, the political decision for Bulgaria and Romania to join by 1 January [2007] has been taken by the member states, upon recommendation by the European Commission". Rehn even admitted he agreed with the ECA's assessment ('you may be right'), but reportedly told Fazakas that "his only task was to make sure that accession takes place on 1 January 2007 as planned ". Now this, on the other hand, is how Leo Brincat's grilling was reported locally: "Mr Brincat said that his hands had been tied during the vote of no confidence in Konrad Mizzi, given that the Prime Minister had not allowed a free vote. He went on to say that the British parliamentary system is used in Malta, 'whereby anyone in breach of the party leadership can either be expelled or suspended from the parliamentary group. This shows I had no choice.'" 'I had no choice'; 'my hands were tied '. Hmm. Same sentiment exactly… and in both cases, the reasons given are eminently political, too. The European Commission 'had no choice' but to accept Bulgaria and Romania as EU members against expert advice, because it was a political decision already taken at Council of Ministers' level. Moreover, Rehn even spelt out for us that his job is to pursue such political objectives at all costs…. regardless how unwise, ill-advised, or downright disastrous (as was the case with Greece) these policies may prove. Sort of makes you wonder why they even appoint institutions like the European Court of Auditors… if the Commission very evidently doesn't give a toss about what its members think. I suppose it's just one of those things on the bucket list – you have to have a 'Court of Auditors', because: a) it sounds good, and; b) it's a prerequisite for transparency and accountability in any democratic system. So you create one just to nominally meet the necessary criteria: then go on to ignore all its reports and advice, and behave just as though it didn't exist at all. Now if, like me, you find that pattern awfully familiar… it's probably because it's the exact same scenario outlined by Leo Brincat in the European Parliament last Tuesday. Brincat claimed his 'hands were tied ' by a political decision taken at a higher level (in his case, the Prime Minister who denied his MP's a free vote). Like Rehn, he admitted that he found it hard to obey this political imposition because of personal misgivings. He even said he considered resigning: which is a sight more than Rehn ever did, when admitting guilt to the same sort of poor political judgment…. or, for that matter, Fazakas when confronted by the sheer pointlessness of his own institution's existence. Just like Olli Rehn's reply, Brincat's frank revelations indirectly raise the question of why we even have individual MPs in the first place. If their job is merely to rubberstamp the Prime Minister's every whim and decision, and Raphael Vassallo Virtù Ferries MaltaToday and Virtù Ferries have teamed up to take one lucky winner and a companion every week to Sicily, with two tickets to be won every week in our photography competition. Already been on holiday? Good: we're sending you back if your best photograph from your holidays and travels makes the cut. That's right: send us a good quality image of your holidays and we'll send the best one to the gateway of Italy with Virtù Ferries. Malta - Sicily Express Ferries For more information visit or contact by telephone 23491000 RULES OF THE COMPETITION maltatoday Conditions apply: 1. Tickets for each week's competition can only be won by one person who submits one entry of a high-res image with description. Entrants with more than one entry WILL NOT be considered. Entrants must send a description of photo. 2. Winners will be informed before the end of the week, and then announced on and MaltaToday on Sunday. 3. By entering this offer, entrants consent to their photos being published and owned by Mediatoday Co Ltd. 4. The entrant with the best photograph will be awarded two (2) return tickets, valid for travel to any Virtù Ferries destination. Mediatoday's decision is final. 5. Tickets are issued free of charge, excluding port charges, and in accordance with Virtù Ferries' rules and regulations. All taxes and charges are to be paid accordingly by the winning entrant upon the issuance of tickets. 6. This offer is closed to employees and contributors of Mediatoday Co. Ltd and Virtù Ferries, or their family members. This week's theme: Travel SEND US PHOTOS FROM YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY PHOTO COMPETITION Photos should be a hi-res image (one per individual entry) with a sentence or two about what inspired you to take your photo. Entrants are kindly reminded not to send in personal family pictures that might be unrelated to theme subjects unless expressly requested. If sending a photo by post, address it to: 'MaltaToday photo competition', Mediatoday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann, SGN9016 Please supply your daytime telephone number, your name, your home address and an email address. Send the photo via email on [SUBJECT HEADING: MaltaToday photo competition] by next Friday at 9am. Themes may change from one week to the other This week's winner is BRENDAN CASCUN with the photo Spot the crow in Amsterdam. Where else do they think they'll find a replacement with quite as much experience at sacrificing personal principles for the sake of tribal politics?

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