The Malta Independent 8 December 2019, Sunday

Malta given two months to correctly implement EU child sexual abuse law

Friday, 26 July 2019, 14:46 Last update: about 5 months ago

Malta has been given two months to properly implement new EU rules on combating child sexual abuse, or it is to face further legal action, the European Commission said yesterday as it unveiled a raft of new legal action against member states.

Malta was treated legal action in no less than eight different areas.

For failing to properly and fully implement EU rules on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography Malta and six other member states were served with letters of formal notice.

The Commission noted that, The EU has strict rules criminalising such abuse across Europe that ensure severe penalties for offenders, protect child victims and help to prevent such offences from taking place in the first place.

“The Directive also includes special measures to fight online child sexual abuse. Almost all Member States faced delays when implementing the new measures, since the Directive is extremely comprehensive.

The Commission said it is “aware of those challenges but to ensure effective protection of children from sexual abuse, all Member States must fully comply with the provisions of the Directive.

The Directive is a comprehensive legal framework which covers investigation and prosecution of crimes, assistance to and protection of victims, and prevention.

The Directive makes it easier to fight crimes against children by acting on different fronts. It approximates the definition of 20 offences, sets minimum levels for criminal penalties, and facilitates reporting, investigation and prosecution. It extends national jurisdiction to cover abuse by EU nationals abroad, gives child victims easier access to legal remedies and includes measures to prevent additional trauma from participating in criminal proceedings. Offenders are to be subjected to risk assessments, and have access to special intervention programmes. Information on convictions and disqualifications are to circulate more easily among criminal records, making controls more reliable. The Directive prohibits advertising the possibility of abuse, or organising child sex tourism, and provides for education, awareness raising and training of officials.

The infringement procedure launched for the incorrect implementation of the Directive into national law gives Malta two months to respond or face a send a reasoned opinion, after which Malta could be hauled before the European Court of Justice.


Incorrect public information and consultation requirements on EIAs

In another currently sensitive area, Malta and two other member states were called upon to improve their domestic rules on Environmental Impact Assessments and to bring their national legislation in line with new EU law.

The Directive ensures that public and private projects are assessed for their impact on the environment before authorisation. EU countries updated new EU legislation in April 2014, reducing the administrative burden and improving the level of environmental protection, while making business decisions on public and private investments more sound, predictable and sustainable.

For Malta in particular, amongst others, the key issues include incorrect enactment of public information and consultation requirements in the context of the environmental impact assessment procedure, and incorrect national provisions of requirements on the content of development consent.

Malta received a formal notice and two months in which to reply.

Victims' rights

Malta and eight others received letters of formal notice for failing to completely transpose Victims' Rights Directive, which applies to victims of all crimes regardless of their nationality and regardless of where in the EU the crime happens.

The EU rules give victims clear rights to access information, to participate in criminal proceedings and to receive support and protection adapted to their needs. This also ensures that vulnerable victims can obtain additional protection during criminal proceedings.

The Member States receiving letters of formal notice have not implemented several provisions of this Directive, such as the right to be informed about both the victims' rights and the case, or the right to support and protection.

Free movement of professionals

Malta alone received a letter of formal notice on its imposed restrictions on certain professions and the failure to notify these restrictions to the Commission as required by the EU rules on the recognition of professional qualifications.

Member States can decide whether and how to regulate professions. However, under jointly agreed EU rules, a Member State needs to assess whether regulation is necessary to protect legitimate public policy objectives and ensure that national professional requirements are inevitable and balanced.

Malta, the Commission said, introduced new shareholding requirements and corporate form restrictions on the establishment of psychotherapists. The Commission deems that the requirements in Malta disproportionately restrict access to these professions and should have been communicated to the Commission under the Directive.

As Malta has not justified the proportionality of these restrictions and has not notified them to the Commission, the Commission considers that it has breached the Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications as well as EU rules on freedom of establishment.

Indirect land use change

Malta and seven others received letters of formal notice for failing to fully transpose EU rules reinforcing sustainability of biofuels. The Directive in question aims to reduce the risk of indirect land use change linked to biofuel production. Indirect land use change occurs when agricultural land used for growing crops for food or feed purposes starts to be used for growing crops for biofuel production instead – increasing the pressure to use other (unused) land to grow crops for food and feed purposes in order to meet demand for food and feed, which has implications for greenhouse gas emissions. The Directive also prepares the transition towards advanced biofuels produced from materials, such as waste and residues. In September 2015, Member States agreed to transpose EU legislation and communicate national implementing measures to the Commission by 10 September 2017.


Energy performance of buildings

Malta alone was treated to a letter of formal notice for failing to report on cost-optimal levels of minimum energy performance requirements as required under EU law.

In May 2010, Member States agreed to set minimum energy performance requirements for buildings, with a view to achieve the best combination between investments and savings, also known as 'cost-optimal levels'. Calculating the cost-optimal levels is key for Member States to fully exploit the energy efficiency and renewable energy potential of the national buildings stock and to avoid citizens spending more money than necessary on efficiency improvements to their housing and offices.


Road hauliers

Malta and 14 others were slapped for failing to upgrade the connection between their respective national registers on road transport undertakings and the new version of European Registers of Road Transport Undertakings.

The ERRU allows the exchange of information on road transport undertakings established within the EU and between Member States. It is an essential instrument to ensure enforcement of EU legislation. The implementation of a new and enhanced version of ERRU requires Member States to adapt their systems at national level. The deadline for establishing an upgraded connection of national electronic registers expired on 30 January 2019.


Marine equipment

Malta was also called upon by way of a letter of formal notice to comply with EU law on marine equipment. The common EU safety rules concern equipment, such as life jackets, sewage cleaning systems and radars, on board EU-flagged ships.

Malta has failed to ensure that marine equipment (on board of Maltese flagged vessels) is always accompanied by a declaration of conformity, and is not conducting market surveillance on an adequate scale.

Malta is neither inspecting transferred ships nor issuing certificates for equivalent marine equipment when a ship is transferred.

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