European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen encouraging Prime Minister Robert Abela to continue implementing reforms such as those recommended by the Venice Commission was “not enough”, according to Greens MEP Sven Giegold who stressed the Commission must take action.
Giegold, who was part of the European Parliament’s fact-finding mission to Malta last December, said that more a firm stance was needed with the new prime minister.
Giegold said the Commission must “get serious”, initiate a dialogue with Malta on the rule of law under Article 7 and begin a number of specific infringement proceedings.
Abela expressed his commitment to Von der Leyen to ensure that Malta “abides by the highest rule of law standards”, according to a statement.
President Von der Leyen encouraged the prime minister to continue working on the basis of the recommendations by the Venice Commission and expressed the Commission’s willingness to support Malta to move forward with its reforms.
Giegold said he believed that the chances of a real new start in Malta under Abela “have already diminished”.
“Nepotism continues unabashed in Malta,” he wrote, referring to the nomination of Konrad Mizzi as Head of Malta’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which the organisation’s Representative for Freedom of the Media described as “incomprehensible and disturbing“.
Giegold was also referring to the consultancy contract given to Mizzi for three years with the tourism ministry that came with an annual salary of more than €80,000. Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli has now terminated the contract.
Although the government backpedalled on Mizzi’s nomination to the OSCE, the prime minister’s decisions on Mizzi and other members of parliament forced out after corruption revelations led to a civil rights protest last Wednesday calling for good governance.
Giegold went on to say that firing suspicious persons and finding new jobs for them would not solve Malta’s problems.
“If Malta is to overcome clientelism and conflicts of interest, the Maltese judiciary must consistently conduct investigations into all allegations of corruption. Replacing a few heads does not create justice. The Maltese government should implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission swiftly and in full,” he said.
In a congratulatory letter to Abela on becoming prime minister earlier this month, Von der Leyen did not make any mention of Malta’s rule of law concerns highlighted by the European Parliament only weeks earlier.
Special Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Pieter Omtzigt has been calling on the Maltese government to implement resolutions, including the implementation of reform packages recommended by the Venice Commission and GRECO, in their entirety.
Last month, Omtzigt requested a meeting with Abela during his fact-finding mission in February. So far, there has been no public confirmation as to whether Abela has accepted the request. Repeated questions sent by The Shift to Abela over several weeks have been ignored.