[WATCH] MEP delegation seriously concerned with Joseph Muscat's decision to stay in office

Dutch MEP Sophie in ’t Veld said that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's decision to stay on was 'very concerning' 

Nationalist MEP Robert Metsola (left) Dutch MEP Sophie in ’T Veld (center) and German MEP Birgit Sippel (right)
Nationalist MEP Robert Metsola (left) Dutch MEP Sophie in ’T Veld (center) and German MEP Birgit Sippel (right)

The MEP delegation that came to Malta on a fact-finding mission said that Joseph Muscat’s decision to stay on as Prime Minister is very concerning. 

“It rests on him whether or not he still enjoys a majority which is supporting him, but people and Europe have serious concerns about Joseph Muscat staying in office, concerns related to the integrity of the murder investigation,” Sophie in ’t Veld said.

In ’t Veld was the chair of the MEP delegation of the LIBE committee that came to assess the situation of Malta’s current political atmosphere.

“There must be absolute confidence in the integrity of the investigation. When Muscat is still in office, this confidence is not there,” she said.

She added that the fact that the Maltese parliament was recently suspended for a fairly long Christmas recess was also a cause for concern. 

“With the former chief of staff, Keith Schembri’s name popping up in stories of corruption, money laundering, in other media stories, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was either incredibly naive to keep him, or he is somehow implicated.”

Stelios Kouloglou, Greek MEP representing the European Left Group, said that Malta deserves better and that the government’s denial of a public inquiry for a long time was extremely worrying.

“The denial of a public inquiry, the propaganda, all those elements, and especially links between the former chief of staff and the perpetrators of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia are all causes for concern. It’s important that this administration lets the police do its job. We cannot trust this administration and the office of the Prime Minister if he continues to stay in power because there is fear that some evidence is destroyed,” he said.

The delegation held a press conference at Europe House in Valletta, saying that it had anticipated a visit to Malta in view of recent events, where angry protestors gathered almost every day in Valletta calling for resignations after Tumas group businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested.

Fenech had business links with the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Schembri, via his company 17 Black and the latter’s Panama structure. Schembri was arrested late in November but was released within 24 hours. 

“We have also witnessed political bipartisanship in this country which has created a culture of bipartisan toxicity. This needs to be immediately addressed,” in ’t Veld said. 

in ’t Veld added that the murder investigation had made considerable progress since Caruana Galizia was assassinated but other investigations into possible money laundering and corruption had either not started or they were not being conducted very vigorously. 

She said she was disappointed that what she had said a year before in a previous delegation coming to Malta, that hate towards the Caruana Galizia family has to stop, was not adhered to. 

“Safety and independence of journalists are under threat as is the right to peaceful demonstration. The hate campaign against certain people in particular, including the family of Caruana Galizia has not stopped and it needs to stop.

“The reforms that have been suggested by the Venice Commission seem to be in progress. They should be implemented fully and quickly,” In ’t Veld said.

The delegation argued that the previous European Commission had completely forgotten Malta but the new one, formed four days ago, under new President Ursula Von der Leyen, was committed to start a new dialogue within the rule of law framework with Malta. 

“The next 40 days are essential to the murder investigation. The European Parliament was able to organise this mission to Malta within two days, so the Commission can also do so immediately,” In ’t Veld said, adding that the European Commission can start the strict monitoring of Malta, including its golden passports scheme. 

Birgit Sippel, part of the delegation and representing the Socialists and Democrats said that the parliament’s trust in Malta’s Labour Party had been “totally destroyed.” 

“You can’t continue to act as if nothing is happening,” she said.

Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola added that Muscat must leave office immediately if the investigation wanted some credibility.

Assita Kanko from the European Conservative party and Lars Patrick Berg from the Identity and Democracy Group were also present.

German Green MEP Sven Giegold, a frequent critic of the Maltese government, was not present as he had to leave Malta early.