Government's 'superficial' Venice Commission proposals don't address corruption, PM's excessive powers - Repubblika

NGO Repubblika says government only addressed some of Venice Commission's concerns in its 'superficial' reform proposals

Civil society group Repubblika
Civil society group Repubblika

The proposals for institutional reform drawn up by the government only superficially address the Venice Commission's concerns about the state of affairs in Malta, Repubblika said.

The NGO said that the government had failed to sufficiently tackle two of the Commission's overarching concerns - institutionalised corruption and the prime minister's excessive powers.

Repubblika's comments come after the government earlier this month sent the key reforms it was considering to the Venice Commission.

Last week, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis described the reforms as "a historic step for Malta."

In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, however, Repubblika flagged a number of issues with the government's proposals.

Amongst the key issued raised, the NGO mentioned the proposal which will see the Judicial Appointments Committee (JAC) suggest three candidates to the President to be appointed to the judiciary.

Repubbika said that the office of the presidency should first itself be reformed before giving the President the power to decide which of the three candidates nominated by the JAC is selected to become a judge or magistrate.

"To date, the President has been chosen on the advice of the prime minister, and has had a mostly ceremonial role. Therefore, if the President is being given new powers, there must be checks and balances introduced," Repubblika president Vicki Ann Cremona said.

She also questioned why it wasn't the JAC itself - which is made up of experts - which has the final say on who is appointed, rather than the President.

Cremona went on to point out that the long-promised Constitutional reform had not yet materialised.

She asked whether a true consultation process, through the setting up of a Constitutional convention, would take place,.

Cremona lamented that there had been a degree of secrecy on the government's part in terms of which proposals it would be sending to the Venice Commission.

Last month, Repubblika had requested that it be consulted on any proposals before they were sent to the Commission.

Repubblika member Manuel Delia, speaking about the proposed changes to the way the Police Commissioner is appointed, said the Venice Commission's aim was for the police to be autonomous from the government in their investigations.

He said that the government proposals had, essentially, only set out that the Police Commissioner be appointed following a competitive process.

Despite this, the final decision on the police chief's appointment remained in the prime minister's hands.

Delia also highlighted that the prime minster would have complete discretion in terms of removing the Police Commissioner during the initial 12-month probation period which is being envisaged in the proposals.

The civil society group will on Thursday be meeting with the Venice Commission to discuss its views on the government's reforms.