The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

Updated (4): Discussions focus on all matters relevant to rule of law – Ana Gomes

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 1 June 2018, 11:01 Last update: about 7 months ago

Morning discussions carried out by the European Parliament delegation on a one-day visit to Malta focused on all matters pertaining to the rule of law in Malta, delegation leader Ana Gomes said.

More details about the talks, which will continue in the afternoon, will be given at a press conference this evening, she said.

Gomes said talks also dealt with to the cases they have been investigating since the Panama Papers, in addition to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

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Another MEP who is part of the delegation, Sven Giegold, said that the meetings were open and frank and that the basis for discussion was the rule of law report MEPs had drawn up and the responses they received.

Reputational risk to Malta's financial services industry following the Panama Papers scandal and all that went on in the years following was discussed in a meeting between Nationalist Party MPs and a cross-party European Parliament delegation.

The delegation is in Malta meeting with the main political parties, NGOs, civil society and even former Minister John Dalli himself to discuss any action taken on recommendations laid out in a rule of law report published last January.

MEPs were in Malta late last year on a fact-finding mission on the state of the rule of law in Malta, following the brutal murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. They produced a report after their visit accompanied by recommendations.

In comments to this newsroom, PN MP Kristy Debono said, following the PN's meeting with the delegation:

"They have asked us for our feedback because they are preparing to follow up a report with recommendations for the European Parliament.

We said that the financial services industry has been hit hard by reputational risk. We highlighted how institutions have lost all autonomy...the FIAU head is completely insignificant, we are not feeling that they are working as just and efficiently as they should be.

"We have discussed the 'Moneyval' assessment, our feel is that the government is not prepared for this examination, if we fail this crucial text this would label our country as a money laundering haven, the risks of such a label are huge."

PN MP David Stellini spoke with this newsroom following his meeting with the MEP delegation. He said the discussion focussed on the rule of law in Malta and the sense of impunity, where major institutions fail to act in the face of allegations against people close to the centre of power 'like OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi'

He said the PN spoke of the importance of enforcement of anti- money laundering laws. He said that the PN stressed that most Maltese are honest and hardworking, in all sectors, and that most people are appalled at how Malta's reputation is being tarnished abroad.

Democratic Party (PD) Leader Anthony Buttigieg said that Daphne Caruana Galizia's brutal murder was discussed, to which he said the PD have no faith in the investigation. He told MEPs that the two political party dominance is part of the good governance problem, as it creates a situation where one can approach either or for favours.

He said that the Pilatus bank situation was brought up but was not a focal point, adding that the Vitals Global Healthcare deal was discussed. He said the MEPs wanted to know if the deal is helping Malta's hospital system, to which he said he has not seen an improvement.

PD representatives also said that Greens MEP Sven Giegold was interested in Planning permits and how those are handled.

In an official statement issued by the PD, it said:

"As things stand, the incumbent in government wields an advantage through a system of fear and favour, as political allegiance and votes are bought, and key appointments are therefore often rewards for loyalty. Public officials who do their duty are harassed and punished. Social media groups, PBS and Party media machines ensure a narrow narrative is followed.

"Partit Demokratiku welcomes the expertise of the EU delegation and wishes Malta to always strive to be a respected, equal partner in Europe and with the rest of the world. 

"The EU Parliament is encouraged to work closely with different representatives of the Maltese nation, for the benefit of Malta as well as for the collective European project  anchored in Rule of Law, Democracy, Social Justice and solidarity."

Edward Zammit Lewis - Rule of Law from The Malta Independent on Vimeo.

The MEPs also met a delegation from the Labour Party, with MP Edward Zammit Lewis saying that “we told them that many of the facts which they had were incorrect and that we have already implemented measures to strengthen the rule of law."

"We will continue to defend our country from this situation and defend our reputation," he said.

"They did not know that we had created a parliamentary committee on scrutiny in regard to public appointments. They didn't know how our judiciary system works. They didn't know the government want courts cases to take place and there's no time limit and we do not interfere in the court’s decision."

Questioned why the police commissioner did not accept the MEPs invite to meet, Zammit Lewis said that it was not his position to answer.

In the afternoon, the delegation met with Magistrate Aaron Bugeja, who is leading the Egrant inquiry, and with Magistrate Anthony Vella, who is leading the inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

They also spoke with Alleanza Bidla’s Ivan Grech Mintoff about the Libyan medical visas scandal and with members of civil society.

 

Later in the day they met with former European Commissioner John Dalli, who was mentioned in the commission’s last mission report and requested a meeting with the MEPs.

Aked by The Malta Independent as to why he had requested a meeting, Dalli said he wanted to meet the MEPs after the “absurd” comments they had made about him in their report.

"They asked instead to have a television interview, which I refused, and I said I wanted to meet them face to face. I want to ask what and why they made those absurd statements which were all based on what Daphne Caruana Galizia used to write. It is absurd."

Civil society member Manuel Delia stated that delegation "clearly know what's going on in the country.”

"We shared our views and nothing has really changed, I think there are just persistent confirmations of which we have known for a long time."

 

Photos/video by Alenka Falzon & James Caruana 


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