[WATCH] MEP rule of law delegation back in Malta to assess situation

MEPs from EU’s rule of law delegation in Malta again for a follow-up, after similar visit to Slovakia earlier this week

Attorney General Peter Grech arriving for his meeting with the MEP delegation
Attorney General Peter Grech arriving for his meeting with the MEP delegation

A delegation from the European Union is back in Malta for a follow-up visit meant to assess the rule of law, corruption and the safety of journalists.

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 see the MEPs meeting with various government officials, civil society activists and journalists, today and tomorrow.

The MEPs arrived in Malta after a similar two-day visit to Slovakia, with in ’t Veld having said - after meetings with officials in that country - that the investigations into the February 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee “seems to be advancing”.

“Justice needs to be served, first for the families of the victims, but also to guarantee the safety of all journalists, and for the sake of democracy,” she said.

Journalists from various Maltese media houses are in Valletta for their meetings with the delegation
Journalists from various Maltese media houses are in Valletta for their meetings with the delegation

The civil liberties MEPs also spoke of their concern, following the Slovakia visit, about corruption, conflicts of interest, and impunity in the country’s ruling circles. They called for the EU’s rule of law standards to be upheld.

“This is not about Slovakia, this is about the integrity of the EU as a community of law,” she underlined, “We will only preserve the rule of law if all member states uphold the same standards…”

Third visit since Caruana Galizia murder

In Malta, the MEPs plan to meet a number of persons on Wednesday and Thursday, including Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, Attorney General Peter Grech, police officials, Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit and Malta Financial Services Authority representatives, journalists, civil society activists, and judges Aaron Bugeja and Anthony Vella.

They will also be meeting with representatives of murdered journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family.

Following Caruana Galizia's killing in a car bomb, 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.

Reactions of parties present to the meetings

Representatives of the Caruana Galizia family were also present for a short meeting. Dr Peter Caruana Galizia described it as a positive gathering as the family lawyer, Dr Jason Azzopardi, echoed his reaction. "It was an objectively satisfying meeting, a positive meeting, where questions, answers and ideas were exchanged," he said.  

Caruana Galizia family representatives react to the Committee meeting

Following the meeting with the Attorney General, Peter Grech, he told MaltaToday that this was a positive conversation with the MEPs. "It's important that we have this dialogue, this civilised dialogue." 

Grech said that as prosecution, he is obligated to be loyal to the facts and to the law. Aspects of the penal process were also discussed. "It was a very positive discussion," he said, "where all parties present their claims. It's good that there is this exchange of ideas."   

Attorney General reacts

Similarly, blogger and anti-corruption activist, Manuel Delia, described the meeting as a "frank exchange of views." He said that what was discussed was mostly freedom of speech and civil liberties in Malta. 

"We expressed our concerns," Delia said. "We told them what's been happening over the last 10 months, and especially the last 2 weeks," he said, referring to the temporary Daphne Caruana Galizia memorial at the Great Siege monument. "We have been clear that the situation is unacceptable, that public authority is verging on authoritarianism."

He contended that the life of activism is harder than it should be. When asked what his expectations are in terms of the delegation, Delia said that the European Parliamentarians were doing their jobs and that they will reach their own conclusions.

Blogger Manuel Delia said he expressed his concerns on civil liberties during the meeting

MEP Roberta Metsola told MaltaToday that Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi refused the invitation for a meeting with the MEPs and that Nexia BT did not reply to the request for their presence. 

More in National