Malta suffers blow at hands of MEPs after draft rule of law resolution approved

MEPs want Malta to set up independent inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder, stop the sale of citizenship as rule of law draft resolution will now go to plenary

MEPs want government members to drop all libel cases against the murdered journalist and her heirs
MEPs want government members to drop all libel cases against the murdered journalist and her heirs

MEPs have adopted by a wide margin a draft resolution outlining serious concerns over the rule of law in Malta and Slovakia.

The resolution was adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday with 40 votes in favour, seven against and six abstentions. It will now be put to the vote in the plenary session at the end of March in Strasbourg.

MEPs expressed serious concerns over the fight against corruption and organised crime and the impartiality of law enforcement and judicial independence in Malta and Slovakia.

The draft resolution summarised the conclusions of a working group to monitor the rule of law in the EU, particularly in Malta and Slovakia.

Both countries came under the spotlight after the murders of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.

The scene for the vote had already been set last week when the resolution was debated in the committee. Labour MEP Miriam Dalli had accused some members of the rule of law working group of allowing "their partisan political agenda to cloud their judgement”.

The draft resolution urges the Maltese government to set up a full and independent inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia. It also demands that all libel cases brought by members of the government against her and her family be withdrawn.

MEPs noted that the Prime Minister´s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi are “the only acting high-ranking government officials in any EU member state who were found to be beneficial owners of a legal entity revealed in the Panama Papers”. They insisted that all suspected government links with “opaque structures, such as Egrant and the 17 Black company, deserve to be investigated”.

The text pointed to the shortcomings in the rule of law in the country identified by the Venice Commission and urged the Maltese government and parliament to implement all of the Commission’s recommendations without exception.

MEPs also want the sale of citizenship scheme terminated “without delay”, insisting that these programmes posed “serious risks” to the fight against money laundering.

Dutch liberal MEP, Sophie in ‘t Veld, chair of the rule of law monitoring group, said: "These findings are very worrying. Journalists too often face threats to their safety in the EU. The situation in Malta is particularly worrying. There is an ongoing hate campaign against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The truth about her murder risks being swept under the carpet, while the rule of law is undermined. The sale of EU citizenship cannot continue. The government also has to step up its fight against corruption and money laundering."

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