Government advisor acting as Maltese ‘double agent’ creates new stir for France

In the French daily newspaper Le Monde, the former secretary of state said he was fulfilling two different missions. Afterwards, he affirmed that his contract with the Maltese government had been suspended following his election to the European Parliament. He continued to defend this position with the French government.

After the scandal with the European Parliament’s rejection of Sylvie Goulard as the French Commissioner, it is now the turn of Sandro Gozi, the EU adviser to France’s prime minister, to be in the spotlight. The Italian had allegedly collaborated with the Maltese government while working for France. EURACTIV France reports.

According to information published on Monday (21 October) by the Maltese daily Times of Malta and carried by the French daily newspaper Le Monde, Matteo Renzi’s former secretary of state for European affairs concluded a consultancy contract in June 2018 with Malta’s head of government, Joseph Muscat.

Muscat’s spokesman confirmed this information.

A year later, on 30 July 2019, the French-speaking Italian politician joined Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s cabinet as “chargé de mission aux affaires européennes” (European adviser). This is what the prime minister explained to France’s National Assembly on Tuesday (22 October).

After the scandal was reported and debated in the French National Assembly, the government invited the Italian politician this week to produce proof, as soon as possible, that his collaboration with the Maltese government had ended.

However, this new conflict of interest case further undermines the credibility of President Emmanuel Macron and his party, LREM, which had already been questioned following the Goulard saga.

‘Double-dealing’

Sandro Gozi’s position in the ministerial cabinet was part of the Italian’s candidacy for the European elections of May 2019.

In the European elections, Gozi obtained a seat, but as he only came 22nd on the EU list of Emmanuel Macron’s party La République en Marche, he will only be able to take his seat in the European Parliament once the United Kingdom officially withdraws from the EU.

In Le Monde, the former secretary of state said he was fulfilling two different missions. He later affirmed that his contract with the Maltese government had been suspended following his election to the European Parliament and continued to defend this position with the French government.

Gozi’s alleged double-dealing caused a stir among French MPs, who pointed to the conflict of interest and recalled the various wrongs attributed to the government headed by Joseph Muscat. In particular, the Maltese government has been suspected of hindering investigations into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Murder of Malta’s top investigative journalist provokes shock and outrage

Daphne Caruana Galizia, Malta’s top investigative journalist, was killed on Monday (16 October) when the car she was driving exploded shortly after she left her home.

“Ethics and transparency are not values shared by all,” said MP Pierre-Henri Dumont of Les Républicains (LR), who questioned Prime Minister Philippe on Tuesday (22 October).

“The European adviser in your office, Sandro Gozi, who is being paid by the French taxpayers, had also been working since July 2018 for the Maltese prime minister,” Dumont argued, asking the head of government for an explanation.

“Your question is a legitimate one,” the prime minister acknowledged.

“I confirm that I asked Gozi to join my cabinet on 30 July as European affairs policy officer,” Edouard Philippe added.

“We invited Mr Gozi to provide the most complete and precise explanations,” explained Édouard Philippe, who confirmed that Gozi had exclusively been working for the French government from the moment he was hired.

Why the European Parliament rejected Sylvie Goulard

The parliamentary committees rejected the candidacy of France’s Sylvie Goulard for the Commissioner’s post, officially on ethical grounds. However, her refusal is also a sign that German conservatives are finding it difficult to trust French President Emmanuel Macron. EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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