The Malta Independent 22 July 2024, Monday
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MEPs ‘appalled by the Maltese Prime Minister’s statement downplaying institutionalised corruption’

Thursday, 19 October 2023, 13:00 Last update: about 10 months ago

MEPs are "appalled by the Maltese Prime Minister's statement earlier this month downplaying institutionalised corruption, and assert that such statements 'entrench the culture of impunity,'" a statement by the EU Parliament has said.

"They call for thorough, swift and independent investigations and prosecutions of all public officials allegedly embroiled in corruption, extortion and trading in influence - including in the vote-buying scheme and driving licence racket," the statement read.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has repeatedly defended customer care officials and others in government, as well as a minister, who had been passing on names of driving test candidates.

MEPs voted on a resolution regarding Malta in the EU Parliament on Thursday. They 'took stock of the situation in Malta and threats to journalists, paying tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia's "essential work" in exposing corruption and organised crime.

"In a resolution adopted with 437 votes in favour, 14 against, and 66 abstentions, Parliament highlights the limited progress in judicial proceedings for Caruana Galizia's murder, noting that there have only been three low-level convictions, and that the mastermind behind the assassination has not been convicted. Investigations into core motives and corresponding judicial proceedings should be concluded without further delay, with the 'full and continuous involvement of Europol'", says the text.

Parliament complained about the persistent lack of progress in prosecuting the crimes that Daphne Caruana Galizia investigated, "which point to suspects at the highest political levels. It also denounces the 'institutional failure of law enforcement and justice in Malta', including the slow progress in proceedings against Pilatus Bank officials and the efforts by authorities to suspend them."

MEPs also spoke out against: "The impunity afforded to the former prime minister, his chief of staff and the former minister for tourism, also formerly the minister for energy; police action against activists; the government's negative rhetoric targeting journalists and obstacles to media freedom and pluralism; the fact that journalists, as well as family members of Daphne Caruana Galizia, are still the target of SLAPPS; the restrictive abortion law that has been passed in Malta; and the Maltese Citizenship by Investment programme."

Looking beyond Malta, MEPs condemned any criminalisation of and attacks on journalists for doing their job. They recalled in particular the killings of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia, of Viktoria Marinova in Bulgaria, of Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece and of Peter R. de Vries in The Netherlands.

In a separate statement, the European People's Party (EPP) said that the European Parliament in Strasbourg delivered "a blistering indictment of the Maltese Government's failure to address the climate of impunity that enabled the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia on the 6 year anniversary since her brutal murder."

"It addressed the latest scandals which the Parliament said 'make it evident that serious governance issues in Malta persist and that this affects people's lives in Malta'," the EPP said 

The Parliament called upon the Commission "to take seriously the culture of impunity in Malta and push for a prompt return to respect for democracy and the rule of law" and to use "all the relevant tools at its disposal to ensure that the law is applied equally for all," the EPP said.

"MEPs from all parties rubbished the claims made by Labour MEPs that there was no impunity for corruption in Malta, despite not a single conviction for corruption being secured on any of the cases Daphne was assassinated for investigating, nor any case since."

In comments following the vote, MEP David Casa said: "The most significant threat to journalists occurs when there is no justice for the wrongdoing they expose, when people close to power continue to be afforded impunity. It is this very culture of impunity that made the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia possible and it is still very much with us today. Our work will continue until we put a stop to it". 

The only 2 S&D MEPs who voted against the resolution were Labour Party MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar. Cyrus Engerer left before the vote and Alfred Sant was not present.




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