A sea of empty seats in the EU Parliament

Only 30 of the 751 MEPs turned up for Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's speech in the EU Parliament marking the end of his country's EU presidency. Those MEPs who were present were forced to listen to furious EU Commission President Juncker telling them the parliament was ridiculous and lacked respect. But was there a political message behind the decision to stay away?

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El Mundo (ES) /

Shameless top-earning politicians

The absent MEPs are sullying the European Parliament's institutional dignity, El Mundo complains:

“Europe's best-paid politicians have displayed an intolerable lack of respect towards a key institution of the EU. This attitude gives further ammunition to those who voted for Brexit and also to right and left-wing populists who describe the European project as obsolete and call for the dissolution of institutions they see as useless. … The European Parliament is not just any organ of EU bureaucracy, it has legislative powers, passing laws that affect us all and help to strengthen cohesion, and it also has a controlling function vis-à-vis the Commission. These are essential tasks that must be performed in all seriousness.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Not laziness but a statement?

Die Welt points to good reasons why the MEPs may have decided to give the Maltese prime minister's speech a miss:

“An EU Parliament inquiry committee recently complained that certain EU governments - first and foremost Malta - were systematically hindering the investigations into the Panama scandal over tax evasion and money laundering. There was talk of a cartel of silence in 'Europe's Panama' in the parliament, and even of the prime minister being directly involved in the Panama scandal: some of Muscat's close colleagues are accused of having dubious companies in Panama and the name of his wife Michele pops up in the 'Panama Papers'. … Whether this was the true reason for the conspicuously empty room or whether Juncker's accusations of disinterest aren't justified after all remains speculation for the time being. No one has said anything openly yet. More's the pity.”