LIVE • MEPs in Malta say still early to talk about punitive Article 7 measures [video]

Constantly Updated: European Parliament delegation in Malta meets PM, police, Attorney General

MEPs meet with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne
MEPs meet with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

The basis of trust between Malta and the European Union “does not seem to be there anymore,” Dutch MEP Sophie In’t Veld has told journalists after meeting Prime Minister Joseph Muscat earlier this morning.

“We have made it very clear that there is a problem. This is now an issue between Malta and the EU, not just between the PM and the Maltese. That trust has been very seriously damaged. Justice being and that truth is coming out and this is the most important thing,” In’t Veld said.

German MEP Sven Giegold said that Muscat admitted that he knew that Yorgen Fenech was somehow involved.

“He refused to say since when exactly he knows… he understands that he somehow made a mistake. It was a tense meeting. I can only say that this government brings the EU into disrespect, and puts Malta at the EU table in disrespect. How can Mr Muscat represent a member state and say he is legitimate while having announced his resignation?”

On Tuesday, the civil society NGO Repubblika held a press conference outside of the Police Headquarters in Floriana, ahead of its eight national protests tonight. The NGO once again called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. 

Manuel Delia addressing journalists on behalf of Repubblika
Manuel Delia addressing journalists on behalf of Repubblika

“Joseph Muscat must resign now. He should have resigned the moment the news emerged that the gang that plotted and executed the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia were close to him. Muscat is protecting these people, including his Chief of Staff Keith Schembri and by doing so he is protecting himself,” the NGO said. 

“Today, everyone needs to come together to make sure that Malta is not governed by criminals or those who are suspected of criminality. This is not a question of Labour or Nationalist, people who are protesting with us are from both parties,” Activist and blogger Manuel Delia said.  

Delia said that Malta must move past its tribalistic tendencies for the sake of the nation. “Let us come together to right the wrongs of the past so that we can begin to move on.” He reiterated that Labour had a mandate to govern and that it should continue to do so, however, without criminal activity in its midst.   

After their meeting with the Commissioner of Police, I’nt Veld said she felt the police were doing good work but refrained from commenting on former chief of staff Keith Schembri. “We have to allow due process to take place,” she said.

The Dutch MEP told MaltaToday that it was too early to trigger a punitive Article 7 measure against Malta. “We are still at a very pre, pre-stage, let’s not rush things. It is clear the spotlight is on Malta and the rule of law, it’s not easy to draw conclusions, but we can see there are big concerns.”

Asked by MaltaToday whether Muscat should attend the forthcoming European Council meeting, the MEP said it was up Muscat’s peers to say whether or not Muscat should take his seat among them. “There is clearly a problem with trust and credibility, which is essential for working together.”

Seven MEPs will today meet the Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat and his deputy PM Chris Fearne following developments in the investigation into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

“In light of recent political and judicial developments in Malta and continuing its long-standing defence of the rule of law in the EU, the European Parliament has decided to send a delegation on a fact-finding mission to review the situation on the ground,” the delegation said.

Muscat and Fearne will meet MEPs Roberta Metsola (EPP, MT), Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE), Sophie In ‘T Veld (Renew, NL - delegation Chair), Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, DE),

Nicolaus Fest (ID, DE - arriving on 3/12), Assita Kanko (ECR, BE), and  Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL, EL).

During these two days, in addition to meeting the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia and civil society representatives including NGOs and journalists, MEPs will also meet justice minister Owen Bonnici, President George Vella, the Attorney General, the Speaker of the House, the Commissioner of Police, and the Chamber of Advocates.

Dutch MP Sophie In 't Veld on the work of the Police Force

Following visits to Malta and Slovakia in the aftermath of the murders of the Maltese blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, the Civil Liberties Committee set up its Rule of Law Monitoring Group in June 2018. Having looked into concerns about the progress of the investigations, as well as allegations of harassment, intimidation, corruption and fraud, the final report identified serious shortcomings in the rule of law.

In the 9th parliamentary term, the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group will monitor and report on relevant issues across all member states until 31 December 2021. Newly arising issues can be added to the DRFMG scope if Members representing a committee majority agree.