The Malta Independent 25 February 2020, Tuesday

Pieter Omtzigt takes aim at government over slow implementation of Venice Commission recommendations

Karl Azzopardi Friday, 14 February 2020, 11:05 Last update: about 11 days ago

Pieter Omtzigt, PACE rapporteur on "Daphne Caruana Galizia's assassination and the rule of law in Malta and beyond: ensuring that the whole truth emerges", met with Prime Minister Robert Abela today and took aim at the length of time it is taking the government to implement the Venice Commission recommendations.

While passing a comment about the size of Prime Minister Abela's cabinet, Omtzigt said that there were some serious issues found with Malta's rule of law.

"I am looking at you Mr Owen Bonnici, you had been minister of justice for two years and I have not seen the reforms. What is even better is that in 2013 the Labour party - to which you all belong to - was elected on a manifesto for constitutional reform."

He said he was happy to see this cabinet is taking action but the requests being put on the table are not new, they have been there for a long time. "You should undertake these reforms, not for me, but it is within the interest of your country, Malta."

"Right at this moment, Malta has a reputation of being active in every sector of the economy which is high risk," he said, giving gaming and the sale of passports as examples.

Omtzigt added that it is only the third time in over the 75 years since the CoE came into existance that a rapporteur was appointed on a particular case - the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder. He added that he is still waiting for certain comments that were made a year and a half ago towards her family to be retracted.

"The last Prime Minister said that he would implement all recommendations made by the Venice Commission, yet we haven't seen much progress even though most of you were in the previous cabinet. It seems that you are waiting for external advice but you should be asking internally."

Having said this, while answering questions from the press after the meeting, Omtzigt said "I see a different attitude among this cabinet than in the previous cabinet. I feel that they have potential to make the right changes."

Prime Minister Robert Abela mentioned a number of changes that the government has implemented or will be implementing, including the new systems for appointing the judiciary and the police commissioner.

He also spoke of the division of the functions of the Attorney General whereby the State Advocate will be a chief consultant to the government and has been chosen through a public call supervised by Judge Michael Mallia, while the Attorney General will be the public prosecutor.

On a similar wavelength, Abela explained that the government is also in the process of splitting the functions of the Police Force, whereby the police will carry out investigate duties, and it will then be up to the Attorney General to lead the prosecution.

"We have started on a strong footing, but we are ambitious to do even more. In principle, we agree on most of the recommendations in the Venice Commission report and we are currently in dialogue on their method of implementation. I look forward to being scrutinized on the delivery of these changes. Malta is a good faith state which stands for democracy, rule of law and governance," concluded the Prime Minister.


 

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