Pieter Omtzigt in ‘positive’ meeting with government ministers

Council of Europe MP Pieter Omtzigt has stressed the urgency of reforms on judicial appointments and the functioning of the public prosecutor’s office

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt

Malta should consider having full-time parliamentarians and better wages for the executive, Council of Europe MP Pieter Omtzigt has suggested in talks with Maltese ministers.

Omtzigt, who had authored a critical report on the rule of law in Malta, which was later adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is in Malta for a two-day visit.

A working lunch he had with Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Finance Minister Edward Scicluna was described as “very positive” by sources close to government.

“Omtzigt said that he noticed a change in attitude under the new Prime Minister and a positive political will to conduct reforms,” the sources said.

The Dutch MP suggested Malta should engage with the Venice Commission in all reforms, with the top priority being the method of appointment for members of the judiciary and the functioning of the public prosecutor’s office.

Prime Minister Robert Abela has said the method by which the judiciary is appointed is a priority for his administration.

Another aspect raised by Omtzigt was the prospect of having full-time parliamentarians to be able to dedicate more time to proper scrutiny of the executive and better salaries across the board for legislators and members of the executive.

Omtzigt also stressed the importance of having ongoing magisterial inquiries on corruption concluded as quickly as possible.

As rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly, Omtzigt had authored a report that asked for an independent public inquiry into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

He later put pressure on the government to change the members of the inquiry board when this was appointed last September after doubts were raised on the impartiality of two of the members. Government eventually gave in and appointed two new members in consultation with members of the Caruana Galizia family.

The public inquiry is underway and has to conclude by September. The board members are retired judge Michael Mallia, who heads the inquiry, former chief justice Joseph Said Pullicino and Judge Abigail Lofaro.

It is tasked to determine, among other things, whether the State did enough to prevent the murder from happening.

Omtzigt was a favourite punching bag for former prime minister Joseph Muscat, who repeatedly referred to the controversy that surrounded the Dutch MP over an investigation into the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine.

Omtzigt had helped a ‘fake witness’ to speak during a parliamentary briefing for relatives of victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, which was shot down in 2014.

Omtzigt is expected to meet the Prime Minister and other State functionaries tomorrow.

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