COMMENT

Moral high ground lost in Malta

PANTELIS BOUKALAS

TAGS: Politics, Business

Times are hard for many European firms, particularly German giants such as BMW, Puma, Lufthansa and Bosch. It appears these firms can’t even afford an office of their own where they could advance their interests with the requisite comfort and equipment. For that reason, they end up crammed together under the same roof. It is often a humble, almost empty room. They also share the same bell at the entrance. They are reminiscent of economic immigrants driven by necessity, or poor students sharing an apartment to cut down on the rent and electricity bills.

According to a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel, an investigation into leaked documents labeled “Malta Files” has revealed that three businesses which are believed to be prosperous, namely Erich Wesjohann Group, the leader in the poultry egg science industry, the world’s largest chemicals maker BASF, and car rental firm Sixt all share the same office in Malta. They also have the same doorbell.

But why Malta? Because, as many Greek businesspeople will tell you, Malta is the “Panama of Europe.” It was branded as such by one of Germany’s regional finance ministers, Norbert Walter-Borjans, after tax investigators in North Rhine-Westphalia took delivery of an anonymous tip-off.

The dogma “capital has no country” seems to make more sense than “the proletariat has no country.”

It’s not a good time to be a Northern European moralist. Sure, Malta is part of the South, but for a Protestant – who as a group are known for taking pride in their law-abiding ethics – to complain about Malta would be like saying a snake had deceived him. The snake (be it Malta, Panama, Switzerland or Luxembourg) is simply acting in line with its nature. 

If you give in to temptation, then you should at least avoid claiming the moral high ground, saying that corruption is the exclusive characteristic of the South.

These are hard times for the leftovers of European solidarity. The revelations did not seem to have any effect on Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, now in charge of the EU’s rotating presidency.

That should come as no surprise. The man is more worried about his implication in the Panama Papers scandal, which prompted him to call an early election.

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