On January 22nd, 2019, my petition (PETI 1737/2013) was discussed in the European Parliamentary Committee of Petitions for the third time. I don’t quite know what’s up with me - ordinarily I would be writing my thoughts on this soon after. It’s the only way I used to be able to calm down, to process my thoughts. The act of writing somehow gives peace.
Lately, however, I’ve had to contend with plenty of ‘noise’ around me so I haven’t been able to find some space for this kind of catharsis. The distracting ‘noise’ came in the form of the last death throes of the UK’s membership of the EU and the relentless spinning of an alternative Maltese universe, a Machiavellian web of intrigue and distortion that rivals any dystopian fiction.
But then again, the discussion of my petition had much in common with the above two dysfunctions. I was vindicated with my decision not to attend the session. I wonder if the invitation for petitioners to attend these discussions is nothing but a façcade of citizen engagement? The Italian police petition before the Arms petition was a case in point. How can European citizens be expected to say what they want to say in 5 minutes? Why don’t they have a right to come back with a reply to the nonsense, the brush off of the European Commission employees?
Yes, the political class everywhere is failing the citizen. We have facades of accountability, of citizen ‘engagement’ coming out of our ears. But, in reality, it’s all a sham, a pretence. A ticking of boxes.
Take petition 1737/2013. Five and a half years ago, I petitioned the European Parliamentary Committee of Petitions re the Arms / tenant scam. I explained how most tenants in Malta are overcharged on the summer residence tariff. Not by €5 per month. No. We were overcharged by 101%. We were meant to pay double what homeowners - including our own landlords - paid for the same consumption of water and electricity. It’s a saga and a half - one which rivals even that of Homer’s Odyssey, except, I would imagine, The Odyssey would be much more enjoyable.
Please note that this overcharging didn’t / doesn’t just affect the MacRaes. Oh no, this is a state sanctioned scam, designed to milk the foreigner tenant cow for all its worth.
But the European Commission employees came up with the same old tired nonsense they had provided in July 2015 and July 2016, when they last discussed my petition. All problems were resolved, said the first European Commission employee, livestream on January, 22nd, 2019. EU nationals had access to the correct tariff now, she said. Overpayments were refunded, she said. There was no discrimination between tenants of different nationality because all tenants were discriminated against, she said. (I kid you not. She actually said this.)
The second European Commission employee told us that Malta had a derogation regarding energy legislation. (I apologise in advance for any spluttering of hot beverage) - It’s better that the government sets electricity prices and not a monopoly commercial system, he said.
I used to think that EU employees couldn’t possibly understand the situation on the ground in Malta. It is too far beyond surreal for them to actually believe that there is such malevolence directed by the state against its own citizens, its own residents.
Now, I’m not so sure. I recognised the second representative from the European Commission. He spoke at the second discussion of my petition in July 2016. Is it possible that nobody reads my volumes of correspondence, explaining how the tweaking by the EU of the Arms utility billing system hasn’t actually worked?
He also goes on to say that if the consumer doesn’t get what they are legally entitled to get, then there is a mandatory conflict resolution mechanism which will resolve that. I wonder - Did he see the correspondence between myself and Noel Scerri, Legal Executive at Arms, with the EU in copy, in which Dr Scerri explains that yes, we’re due a refund but the refund would go to our ex landlord and then I would have to apply to the courts to get this off my landlord? Does he think that this is acceptable? Is this what he means when he talks of a mandatory conflict resolution mechanism? I don’t consider that the conflict I had with Arms is resolved. I imagine Arms does, however. They get off with over €3200 of our money.
No mention at all was made by the European Commission employees of my letter to the European Commission of August 2018, in which I detail all the articles of the TFEU and the energy efficiency directive, which, in my opinion, were being breached by Malta.
The only person who referred to my letter was MEP Roberta Metsola. She asked the three questions I ask in the letter, namely - how many tenants have applied for temporary recognition of tenant in rented premises, how many tenants have used the Arms redress mechanism and received a refund of their overpayment and how many so called empty residences show a consumption of water and electricity which belie the ‘empty’ premises tag?
Let’s hope the European Commission explain clearly how Malta is not in breach of EU law, as per my letter of August 2018, and that they provide the answers to the above questions.
Speaking for myself, I must have something to show for all the energy I have expended on this over the last five and a half years. The next step will probably be the European Ombudsman. I’ll have more time in the Summer holidays so I’ll work on that then.