Karl Izzo’s nomination for the post of non-resident ambassador to Montenegro was approved in today’s Public Appointment’s Committee meeting, with the decision noticeably being split along party lines.
Izzo is a personal friend of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and also of Labour MP Edward Zammit Lewis, who said that he abstained from the hearing when the committee was formally notified by the government of Izzo’s nomination back in December. Izzo is also the coach of Malta’s national waterpolo team. Karl Izzo, together with his wife Diane, own the fashion retail group Dizz.
The Opposition argued that he did not have the required competence for the post and does not meet the level one should have for diplomatic representation.
Izzo does not have any known skills or experience that would be deemed important for a diplomat to have, such as any diplomatic or political acumen. He is also a paid advisor to Sports Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima.
Other than through his experiences in water polo, Izzo has no other known connections to Montenegro.
When questioned about his experience, or lack thereof, he insisted that through his work in the secretariat of sports he was involved in work tied to Croatia and Russia related to the 10-year plan to better the quality of sports in the country.
It was also noted that the Minister for Sport in Montenegro used to be the captain of the Montenegro national waterpolo team, and he maintained that they can work very well together.
Nationalist MP Herman Schiavone did not deny his knowledge in sports, but queried how this would help him in his job with regards to being ambassador.
Izzo said that he has gone abroad to represent Maltese sports in Brussels, as an example.
“As for Montenegro, I know the country very well. I have gone many times and I had studied sports there.
I have already spoken with people there who are interested in working together. I have good contacts there.”
After Izzo left the room, the Opposition members of the committee asserted that they do not think that he is an appropriate person to serve as ambassador, going on to say that if he was to be ambassador of sports then they would have decided otherwise.
They also pointed out that since Montenegro is working to join the European Union, there needs to be a candidate who has more experience in this area of diplomacy.
“We asked questions pertaining to his experience and he has none.
This man unfortunately should not have been nominated for the post of ambassador, even though it is for the post of a non-residential ambassador, it still has an impact on our country.”
The Opposition insisted that there should be some form of standards, and said that they will not vote in favour of him being appointed.
Throughout the meeting, both Nationalist MPs Herman Schiavone and Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici insisted that they focused on the nominee’s merits and were not being prejudiced due to any of his personal relationships.
Labour MP Glenn Beddingfield went into previous ambassadors and their qualifications, noting that qualification are not the only prerequisite for someone to be offered a position.
Beddingfield then accused the Opposition of judging the nominee because of his background, and not taking into consideration the role he is being offered.
“I already think he is a worthy ambassador for Malta in the sports sector and I also think he should be approved.”
The Nationalist MPs objected to Beddingfield’s insinuation that they made a decision on Izzo based on his background or personal relationships, also noting that it is wrong for an appointment to be given to someone with no experience simply because there have been individuals in the past who had experience and were not effective.
Labour MPs Clayton Bartolo, Robert Abela, and Silvio Parnis all agreed that Izzo was the ideal nominee for the post of non-residential ambassador to Montenegro.
Abela noted that the Opposition had not agreed with the appointment of Daniel Azzopardi, and that he had done a good job since he began his role as Permanent Representative of Malta to the EU.
Malta has had recent dealing with Montenegro. A multi-million euro wind farm project in the hills of Montenegro that was taken over by Enemalta, under the direction of Konrad Mizzi who was the Minister for Energy at the time, faced some serious public scrutiny a few years ago.
Following the appointment of Izzo, the Nationalist Party insisted that this nomination does not reach the level expected of diplomatic representatives.
“The criteria of this choice should be based on professional experience, expertise and training, and not the malpractice and anti-meritocracy of a friends of friends approach.”
They went on to note that Montenegro is an important country within the European family, and a future member of the EU, going on to point out that Malta had already publicly given its support to their candidature.
“This is why the PN members in this committee decided that this is a bad decision, and this indicates that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has lost direction, and is casting a shadow on constant and sustained diplomatic work.”
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