The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Sant believes decision to fulfil recommendations of Venice Commission too quick

Rebekah Cilia Monday, 25 March 2019, 20:20 Last update: about 24 days ago

Labour MEP Alfred Sant told the European Parliament tonight that he did not agree with the government about its quick decision to fulfil the recommendations fo the Venice Commission.

“Personally, I do not believe there was a need to make such a quick commitment,” he said.

The European Parliament debated a resolution, approved in February by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee, that calls for action to be taken on the investigations taking place into the murder of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak.

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The debate on the rule of law resolution will be held in plenary, with MEPs are expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday.

Sant said that last Friday the Maltese government had committed to making legislative changes to the recommendations made recently by the Venice Commission on issues of governance. However, he believes that “the changes need to be discussed in Malta, amongst the Maltese, with the Maltese and not with biased members of this house. However, surely, the government’s decision is a clear sign that Malta is and will be fully respectful of the rule of law.”

Sant said that issues about the rule of law are being used to advance polarised and biased interest arsing from national politics. Factually incorrect and skewed accusations are being made about Malta so that so-called inquiries could be launched.

“Repeatedly, investigations of this type sought to tarnish the image of the island. Proceedings of the monitoring group and the LIBE committee of this parliament conducting such an investigation were opaque and arbitrary.”

He mentioned that one of the key members of the committee is also one the members of the opposition party in Malta, referring to Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola.

“How can we pretend to be advocates of the rule of law when we allow far-reaching value judgements to be reached by a self-elected and non-transparent group of members?”

He continued to say that Malta is well able to assess and reform its democratic functioning while fully respecting the rule of law.

Metsola, on the other hand, said that the assassination of journalist should not be acceptable. “Corruption and deceit should not be acceptable. Injustice and impunity should never be acceptable.”

She said that the draft resolution defends Maltese values and it defends European values. “As a representative of the Maltese people, I promote and defend our values - always and everywhere. All the time. This resolution is based on the same values: a framework of how things should be done.” 

It is not always easy to fly your nation’s flag even when those in power and their propaganda machines are the ones blowing the wind against it. But I am in politics because I stand up for what I believe in. And as long as I am here I will stand up and defend our values.”

Portuguese MEP Ana Gomes said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was continuing to protect Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murderers, saying this was unacceptable. "Her children continue to be harassed by defamation cases," she said.

Labour MEP Miriam Dalli said that it was ironic that certain members of the EP were criticising Malta when it had just last week implemented recommendations of the Venice Commission. She said further reforms, neglected by previous conservative administrations, required a two-thirds majority in government.

Sophia in ’t Veld, the rapporteur of the Working Group said that the rule of law committee highlighted its concerns and criticisms but also noted there were improvements showing that the EU works.

She called for rule of dialogue between the European Council and the Maltese government, although she did note that the Maltese government committed itself to the recommendations of the Venice Commission.

Furthermore, she said that the masterminds behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder needed to be caught as well as an end put of the scheme of golden visas, as were listed as part of the recommendations in the draft resolution.

European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourova agreed that dialogue with Malta was needed and highlighted the lack of efficiency in the investigations of high profiles cases. She also agreed with in ’t Veld saying that it was crucial that the masterminds behind Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder were brought to justice.

Jourova said that favourable conditions must be in place so that freedom of expression can be freely exercised. She also added the Europe and Eurojust are fully available for the countries to use them.

The resolution, drafted after visits by a cross-party group of MEPs to both Malta and Slovakia last September, calls for efforts to be made for the masterminds of the murders to be identified and brought to justice as quickly as possible.

A Slovak businessman, Marian Kocner, was charged earlier this month with having ordered the assassination of Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Three men stand charged with murdering Daphne Caruana Galizia with a car bomb on 16 October 2017 but the masterminds behind the murder remain unknown.

The resolution calls on the Maltese authorities to set up an independent public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, to publish the full version of the Magistrate Aaron Bugeja Inquiry report, to stop selling passports with no genuine link to Malta, to investigate corruption and the link between the 17 Black company and Minister Konrad Mizzi and the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, as well as to take concrete action against the orchestrated hate campaign against the memory and family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The inquiry led by Magistrate Bugeja dealt with allegations that a company opened in Panama, named Egrant, belonged to the wife of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. The inquiry found no evidence to sustain the allegation.

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