The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

MEPs pass resolution on Malta’s rule of law, stress need to investigate all corruption allegations

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 29 April 2021, 09:48 Last update: about 12 days ago

Members of the European Parliament have adopted a resolution stating that all allegations of corruption and fraud in Malta, especially at a high political level, should be investigated and prosecuted with the appropriate rigour and at the appropriate level.

MEPs voted on a resolution which dealt with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the rule of law in Malta on Wednesday, the results of which were published on Thursday morning. The MEPs passed the resolution 635 votes in favour, 46 against with 12 MEPs abstaining.

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The MEPs expressed deep concern about the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees in the murder case and urged the government to bring to justice all those implicated in all cases brought to light by the journalist. 

In addition, the resolution calls on Malta to terminate its investor citizenship and residence schemes. Recently, the Passport Papers have given an in depth look into the working of Malta's past IIP scheme, revealing the lack of real genuine links between some of those purchasing citizenship and the country, among other things.

The MEPs also acknowledged the progress made, "albeit greatly delayed, in some of the investigations in cases of money laundering and corruption, particularly with regard to the former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister." They stressed, however, that the latest testimonies and revelations have brought new suspicious facts and potential criminal acts to light and therefore called on the Maltese authorities to also launch and advance investigations in these cases without delay, "including possible attempts by public officials to conceal evidence and obstruct investigations and judicial proceedings."

The MEPs reiterated that the Maltese Government must consider the fight against organised crime, corruption and the intimidation of journalists as of the utmost priority.

The MEPs "deeply regret how developments in Malta over the years have led to serious and persistent threats to the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights, including questions as to the freedom of the media, the independence of law enforcement and the judiciary from political interference, and the freedom of peaceful assembly."

They consider that constitutional guarantees in respect of the separation of powers should be further strengthened, and noted that following the implementation of some of the recommendations of the Commission, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, the Government of Malta made progress in relation to the rule of law. They encouraged the Government of Malta to continue to pursue endeavours to strengthen its institutions.

The MEPs said they are also deeply concerned "about some of the Commission's findings in its 2020 Rule of Law Report with regard to Malta, notably 'deep corruption patterns'" They welcomed, nonetheless, the launch of the structural reform project and reiterated their call on the Commission to use all the tools and procedures at its disposal to ensure full compliance with EU law vis‑à‑vis the efficient functioning of judicial systems, the fight against money laundering, banking supervision, public procurement, and urban planning and development.

While acknowledging that the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia triggered reforms to improve the protection of journalists and defend media freedom, they stressed "that the Maltese authorities should take further demonstrable steps, setting long-term legislative and policy measures that serve to ensure an environment for critical, independent journalism in Malta and the accountability of politicians and officials, in particular as regards preventing and sanctioning threats, harassment, bullying and the dehumanisation of journalists, publicly or online." They called on the Maltese Government to address "existing concerns related to media freedom and the independence of media regulators and public and private media from political interference and the increasing use of hate speech on social media."

The resolution also mentioned Malta's citizenship sale scheme. Where MEPs said they are "deeply concerned about the harmful impact of citizenship and residence schemes on the integrity of EU citizenship." They called on the "Maltese authorities to assure transparency and terminate its investor citizenship and residence schemes, rather than modify them." The MEPs also called on the Commission to issue its reasoned opinion in the relevant infringement case as soon as possible.

The MEPs called on the Commission to propose EU anti-SLAPP legislation in order to protect journalists from vexatious lawsuits and also called on the Maltese authorities to enact domestic legislation on SLAPP in the meantime.

They said that when fighting corruption and maladministration, investigative journalism should receive particular consideration and financial or fiscal support as a tool serving the public good, underlining the need for rapid response mechanisms for violations of press and media freedom, as well as the cross-border investigative journalism fund.

 

 


 

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