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[WATCH] Prime Minister questions 'usefulness' of MEPs fact-finding mission on rule of law in Malta

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat meets MEP delegation at Castille • Questions usefulness of visit but reiterates government's commitment to engage with MEPs because Malta had 'nothing to hide' • Delegation head Ana Gomes flags issues with the justice system

1 December 2017, 10:26am
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri meeting MEPs at Auberge de Castille
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri meeting MEPs at Auberge de Castille
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has questioned the "usefulness" of the European Parliament's fact finding mission on the rule of law, insisting much of the information reaching MEPs was partial and one-sided.

Muscat said this resulted in a “misunderstanding of [the Maltese] justice system”. He was speaking this morning during a visit at Auberge de Castille by a delegation of the EP led by Socialist MEP Ana Gomes.

“We are engaging with you as a sovereign state, because we believe that most of the information you were fed was partial, its analysis one-sided, and conclusions misguided. Because we have nothing to hide, as we already did previously, we are willing to engage, as we do regularly with Council and the Commission.

“Unfortunately, the usefulness of this visit is rather questionable since many of you have already made statements and voted on a Motion for Resolution, before coming to ascertain facts. As you have noticed in your own reports, Malta’s political system and media are highly polarised. It is therefore quite astonishing that you chose to meet a very partial representation of public opinion.”

The Prime Minister said that he had every interest in seeing that the Caruana Galizia murder is solved. He said that investigations are being carried out and being supervised by independent officials, and the inquiring magistrate was not chosen by him, but according to Maltese law.

 

“I am willing to share more information on the ongoing investigations," he said, “but we have to note a letter which the family sent to the Minister for Home Affairs, cautioning him not to disclose any information in Parliament, and threatening him with criminal actions. This is unfortunate, since the Minister was only repeating publicly available information in response to a question by the Opposition, but we will strive to respect the family’s wishes. Our resolve to deliver justice is second to none."

Gomes said she came to Malta to speak to various interlocutors in a bid to gather information on the country's efforts to fight organised crime. “We are concerned that Malta has not yet enacted the 4th and 5th money laundering directives,” she said, adding that there are issues related to Maltese justice system.

“There are various reports, and yet prosecutions have not taken place,” she said.

Gomes said Malta required more work in terms of separation of powers at all levels. Despite the positive measures adopted these had to be translated into practice so as to move away from the feeling that there was too much power concentrated in one body. “Separation of powers is an essential pillar in the rule of law, which is the basis for our collective security especially in order to fight organised crime, which is the worst type of criminality,” she said.

MEPs from the six largest political groups of the European Parliament are in Malta to discuss the rule of law. The fact finding mission is in Malta following a resolution, which was adopted in November expressing concerns of the rule of law in the wake of Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder. The mission started yesterday and includes Nationalist Party MEP David Casa.

Earlier they met Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri at the law courts.

Accompanying Muscat were Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, European Affairs Minister Helena Dalli and Prime Minister chief of staff Keith Schembri, who MEPs wanted to question over his involvement in Panama Papers.

The meeting continued behind closed doors. 

The delegation will then meet with Malta Financial Services Authority chairman Joe Bannister, before holding a press conference in Valletta at 1:30pm.