Cuschieri mum on embassy recall

Facebook - Joseph Cuschieri

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Contacted by Newsbook.com.mt, Joseph Cuschieri has opted not to comment on the government’s decision to terminate his job as Malta’s ambassador to Italy, just four months after his appointment.

On 13 March, Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo had confirmed that former Armed Forces of Malta commander Carmel Vassallo would be sent to Rome, one of Malta’s most important diplomatic postings. Vassallo is thus expected to replace Cuschieri: until then, the acting chargé d’affaires is Clint Borg.

The Times of Malta had reported that Cuschieri had travelled to Rome before his appointment had been confirmed, in breach of protocol. Newsbook.com.mt contacted a Foreign Ministry spokesman, but was asked to send its questions in writing.

“Cuschieri began his posting as Ambassador-Designate to Italy after receiving the agrément from the Italian government and on the official instruction of the ministry,” the ministry said. “It is the government’s prerogative to decide when to appoint or replace an ambassador, according to exigencies. Ambassador Carmel Vassallo will be replacing Ambassador Joseph Cuschieri.”

A diplomatic gaffe?

The Times of Malta also reported that Cuschieri had committed a diplomatic gaffe last month, when he announced on Facebook that he would be donating a month’s salary to the Italian Civil Protection Department.

Diplomatic sources had said that the Italian government deemed Cuschieri’s gesture to be in bad taste.

Cuschieri had first been elected to Parliament in 1998 and was re-elected in 2003 and 2008, only to resign later that year to make way for newly-elected Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat.

He narrowly missed out on being elected to the European Parliament in 2009, but as the first-runner up, he became an MEP two years later when Malta was granted a sixth seat. However, he failed to be re-elected in 2014.

Despite a lack of diplomatic experience, he was made Malta’s ambassador to Greece in 2016, before being posted to Rome last January.