MEPs voted in favour of resolutions against Malta and Slovakia today, reflecting their belief that both countries suffer from serious shortcomings in the rule of law.
Parliament passed on Thursday, with 398 votes to 85 and 69 abstentions, a resolution summarising the conclusions of the working group set up within the Civil Liberties Committee to monitor the situation of rule of law in the EU, particularly in Malta and Slovakia, following the murders of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.
Calling for an independent inquiry into the murder of Caruana Galizia, an end to the country’s cash-for-passports, and investigations into Egrant, 17 Black, Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi, this is the latest in a series of high-level criticisms of the Maltese government.
In 2018, the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) started to monitor and compile information on the situation of the rule of law in the EU, with a specific focus on corruption and the freedom of the press. The monitoring was ordered after the European Parliament expressed concern regarding the “lack of progress” in the investigations into the murders of Caruana Galizia and Kuciak, as well as claims of harassment and intimidation of journalists, corruption, and fraud.
The aim of the action was to provide full support to all efforts to ensure that the rule of law prevailed in both Member States.
The rule of law monitoring group was chaired by MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld who paid a number of visits to Malta and Slovakia, following the journalists’ assassinations.
European Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová told the European Parliament during the debate the Commission had highlighted its concerns about the “lack of efficiency” with which corruption cases were investigated and prosecuted in Malta.
In February, a draft resolution was adopted by the same committee that summarised the conclusions of their investigations. MEPs commented on the “chilling effect on journalists” caused by the “continuous efforts of a growing number of EU Member states’ governments to weaken the rule of law, separation of powers, and the independence of the judiciary”.
The resolution called on the Maltese government to set up a full and independent inquiry into Caruana Galizia’s murder and asked that all libel cases brought by members of the government against her family, be withdrawn.
In ‘t Veld said in a statement: “The situation in Malta is particularly worrying. There is an ongoing hate campaign against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The truth about her murder risks being swept under the carpet, while the rule of law is undermined”.
They also denounced the fact that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi remained “the only acting high-ranking government officials in any EU member state who were found to be beneficial owners of a legal entity revealed in the Panama Papers”. They also demanded a proper investigation into 17 Black and Egrant – the third Panama company exposed that Caruana Galizia linked to the Prime Minister’s wife.
Concerns were also raised around the lack of implementation of the Venice Commission’s recommendations, and they asked that the country’s cash-for-passports scheme be terminated without delay due to “serious risks in the fight against money laundering”.
Slovakia was requested to conduct transparent and in-depth investigations into the murder of Kuciak and his fiance, as well as alleged cases of corruption and fraud. The government was also warned on political appointments in important roles such as the Head of Police.