EU summit prevents ‘rule of law’ MEPs from meeting Muscat

Calendar fail for MEPs in rule-of-law follow-up in Slovakia and Malta as both countries’ leaders will be away on official meetings

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri meeting MEPs at Auberge de Castille in December 2017
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his chief of staff Keith Schembri meeting MEPs at Auberge de Castille in December 2017

MEPs on the civil liberties committee who will travel to Slovakia and Malta next week to inquire about the countries’ rule of law, will be unable to meet with the countries’ respective prime ministers because the meeting coincides with an EU summit.

The committee of MEPs will also investigate the assassination of journalists Jan Kuciak and Daphne Caruana Galizia,

But while according to a draft programme for the visit, they will be meeting the countries’ prime ministers, Peter Pellegrini and Joseph Muscat, both leaders will be unavailable.

The Slovak Cabinet will be in Košice on 17 September, when MEPs arrive in Bratislava to meet with the Czech government to jointly celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

And the meeting marked “to be confirmed” with Muscat on 20 September will be impossible because of the informal Salzburg summit of EU leaders.

The delegation – made up of chair Sophia in ’t Veld, Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola, and MEPs Josef Weidenholzer, Monica Macovei and Sven Giegold – will be in Malta on 18 and 19 September.

They plan to meet Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, the Chief Justice and Attorney General, police authorities and the heads of the Malta Financial Services Authority and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

The group of MEPs will also be exchanging views with journalists and representatives of the Daphne Project, and will be discussing the situation on the island with NGOs concerned with the rule of law and fighting corruption.

Journalists were contacted individually and not through the respective media houses, MaltaToday is informed.

The mission was recommended by the new working group on the rule of law and the fight against corruption, set up by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee in May.

Following the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an ad hoc delegation of MEPs had travelled to Malta in December 2017 to assess the state of rule of law and the implementation of European anti-money laundering legislation.

In June 2018, a group of three MEPs also carried out an informal follow-up visit to the one in December.

MEPs were also in Slovakia in March 2018, after the killing of journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová.

The MEPs from the EP’s civil liberties committee LIBE come a week since the Parliament voted to trigger Article 7 procedures against Hungary by a two-thirds majority.

Not all countries and parties supported the motion. Czech PM Andrej Babiš described it as “nonsense [that] only contributes to negative moods in the EU” and that Czech MEPs who voted in favour of the censure motion “betrayed us”.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani also told Il Sole’s Radio24 that he did not vote because he stood by Forza Italia’s decision not to support the censure motion: “Why was nothing done then against countries like Malta and Slovakia, when you had two journalists killed here, and in the case of Slovakia, leading to the resignation of a center-left prime minister?” Tajani said, referring to the assassinations of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak.

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