The Malta Independent 24 June 2019, Monday

Alfred Sant does not vote on European Parliament resolution on Hungary

Wednesday, 12 September 2018, 15:15 Last update: about 11 months ago

Former Prime Minister and Maltese MEP Alfred Sant did not vote on the EU Parliamentary resolution regarding the rule of law in Hungary.

European Union lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of launching action against the Hungarian government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban for allegedly undermining the bloc's democratic values and rule of law. The lawmakers on Wednesday voted 448-197 in favor of a report recommending the launch of a so-called Article 7 procedure, which could lead to the suspension of Hungary's EU voting rights.


AN EU Parliament press statement had read that Hungary's accession to the EU "was a voluntary act based on a sovereign decision, with a broad consensus across the political spectrum" and underline that any Hungarian government has a duty to eliminate the risk of a serious breach of the EU's values. Parliament's key concerns relate to: the functioning of the constitutional and electoral system, the independence of the judiciary, corruption and conflicts of interest, privacy and data protection, freedom of expression, academic freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of association,  the right to equal treatment, the rights of persons belonging to minorities, including Roma and Jews, the fundamental rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and economic and social rights.

Sant, in a statement explaining his abstention,  told the European Parliament that "the politicised manner by which the European Parliament investigates governance issue nullify the credibility and legitimacy of such investigations.  Sant said that similar investigations on Malta were crassly biased and  Maltese NGOs were chosen in a partisan and one-sided way."

Sant said, when he declared his abstention from the vote against Hungary, that "I do not want my vote to give the impression that this fundamental flaw is non-problematic."

The Panama Papers situation in Malta, where Minister Konrad Mizzi and OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri were found to have had companies in the secretive jurisdiction of Panama, as well as other situations, resulted in the EU sending MEPs to Malta to look into the rule of law in the country. The MEPs who had come to Malta ended up with serious concerns, with some having argued that they left with more concerns than when they had arrived. The MEPs, when in Malta, met with journalists, the Attorney General, the police, the FIAU, members from the political parties, and civil society. Another issue on the cards at the time were allegations of money laundering and the egrant situation, the latter of which saw conclusions released which did not find evidence that the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his family had any relation to Egrant.

Sant said that on the basis of information that is available, he disagrees with a number of the policies followed by the present Hungarian government for their illiberal and authoritarian orientation.  "However I do not believe that the procedures adopted in this House to consider and pass judgement on governmental decision making in our member states are objective, transparent or fair. I say so from personal knowledge of how such procedures are being applied in the case of my country, Malta, where the methods and approaches being followed by members of this Parliament to examine governance issues, are crassly biased. This has happened to the extent that when so-called NGOs are consulted about the situation in the country, they are chosen in a partisan and one sided way."

The Maltese MEP said that if such approaches are adopted with regard to a given country, it cannot be excluded that they are also followed in other instances.

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