Brussels starts infringement proceedings against Malta for environmental, energy, data failures

Malta has two months to address deficiencies in environmental justice, energy efficiency, and digital economy regulations

The European Commission (EC) has launched infringement proceedings against Malta, citing deficiencies in environmental justice, energy efficiency, and the digital economy.

On Thursday, the EC issued three formal notices to Malta, urging the country to address these issues within two months to avoid further legal action.

The EC's notice highlighted the need for Malta to provide "broad access" to environmental justice. According to the commission, the public and environmental NGOs in Malta currently have limited rights to access courts on matters related to nature, waste management, and water policy. The EC emphasised the importance of allowing the public to challenge the enforcement of environmental laws through the judiciary.

This is not the first instance of the EC reprimanding Malta for environmental shortcomings. In 2019, Malta faced scrutiny over environmental studies for planning applications and has been repeatedly called out for non-compliance with European hunting and trapping laws. Hungary was also cited alongside Malta for similar failings in environmental justice.

Nationalist MEP candidate Peter Agius responded to the EC's actions by urging the Maltese government to provide legal mechanisms for citizens and civil society to hold authorities accountable for not implementing EU standards. Agius argued that such measures would enhance the fight for a cleaner environment, addressing issues like sewage in the sea and high particulate matter levels causing respiratory conditions.

In addition to environmental concerns, the EC reminded Malta and six other countries of their obligations regarding the energy efficiency of buildings. The commission noted that these member states, including Malta, had failed to submit their third cost-optimal report, which assesses the balance between investment and savings in energy performance.

The commission stressed the importance of setting minimum energy performance requirements, a point of contention as Maltese MEPs recently voted against an EU proposal to set clear deadlines for energy efficiency improvements and climate-neutral buildings by 2050.

Furthermore, the EC identified shortcomings in Malta's implementation of an EU regulation on data access and sharing. Malta, along with 17 other countries, has not designated a national authority to oversee the enforcement of this regulation.

Malta has a two-month period to respond and rectify these issues before the EC considers escalating the proceedings by issuing reasoned opinions, the precursor to potential referral to the EU Court of Justice.