Large majority of MEPs vote in favour of resolution on rule of law in Malta

466 MEPs vote in favour of resolution asking Commission to start dialogue with Maltese government on rule of law on the island

A large majority of MEPs have voted in favour of a motion on the rule of law in Malta
A large majority of MEPs have voted in favour of a motion on the rule of law in Malta

The European Parliament have this morning voted by a majority of 466 MEPs in favour, 49 against and 167 abstaining, to a resolution on the rule of law in Malta, put forward yesterday.

The resolution calls on the European Commission to start a dialogue with Malta’s government regarding the functioning of the rule of law and calls on the Police Commissioner to investigate Panama Papers revelations and FIAU PEP reports.

All EP groups except the Socialists and Democrats co-signed the resolution, which highlights numerous concerns which MEPs have about issues of corruption, police inaction and money laundering.

The resolution, which comes in the aftermath of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, also emphasised the fact that an independent investigation on the murder, with Europol involvement throughout, was vital.

The S&Ds brought forward a separate resolution which, while noting that there was genuine concern about the Caruana Galizia murder, and that her murder was a threat to freedom of expression, emphasised that Malta’s institutions were trusted by the majority.

Malta needs to prop up its rule of law and the Commission must monitor the country closely to ensure unbiased law enforcement, MEP say.

The resolution asks the Commission to “start a dialogue with the Maltese government on the functioning of the rule of law in Malta”. The Commission is also tasked with verifying if Malta complies with anti-money laundering rules and bank regulations.

Parliament noted that the independence of Malta’s law enforcement and judiciary may be compromised because the interests of individuals have infiltrated the public decision-making processes to further their own ends. MEPs also want disclosure of the country’s programme of selling Maltese and EU citizenship to non-EU citizens. And they call for an independent international investigation, with the full involvement of Europol, into the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Malta’s worsening track record 

Numerous reports, from Europol, Reporters Without Borders, and the European Parliament’s temporary committee on the Panama Papers, conclude that recent developments raise serious concerns about Malta’s governance, freedoms, and illegal activities, facilitated by the weakness of the systems in place.

A major problem underlined in the resolution is Malta’s poor record in tackling a number of serious allegations of corruption, breach of anti-money laundering laws and banking supervision, because the police do not carry out investigations and the Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit (FIAU) is under political pressure.

The resolution also notes that those named in the FIAU reports and the Panama Papers continue in government. MEPs urge Malta’s Police Commissioner to open investigations and ask the country’s supervisory and judiciary authorities to investigate Pilatus bank’s licensing process, a bank facing scathing criticisms in recent months. The work of Nexia BT, a consultancy involved in the citizenship programme and named in the Panama Papers, should also be investigated.

Citizenship against payment - more clarity needed

The resolution casts doubts on the practice of granting citizenship of an EU country against payment and asks the Commission to monitor these programmes. In the case of Malta, leaked reports pinpoint possible corruption in the administration and the government is asked to make clear who has purchased Maltese citizenship and how it verifies if these persons have spent a year in Malta prior to the purchase.

PN MEPS' statement

The Maltese Delegation in the EPP Group, MEP David Casa, MEP Roberta Metsola and MEP Francis Zammit Dimech stated: "The intentional, systematic weakening and subsequent collapse of the rule of law in Malta started a number of years ago and has now culminated to a point that renders complacency unacceptable.

"It is when the journalist is the last person standing between the rule of law and those that wish to undermine it that the journalist is assassinated."

The MEPs called on the European Commission and the Maltese Government to take heed of the overwhelming position of the European Parliament. "To remain silent is to be complicit. The time for inaction is over."

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