There has been “little visible response” to allegations of corruption according to a report on Malta by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Published on Tuesday, the report entitled “the honouring of membership obligations to the Council of Europe by Malta,” said that the perception of corruption in Malta is high “despite the fact that Malta has on paper an impressive arsenal of public institutions involved in checks and balances”.
The lack of visible response to such allegations “has created a sense of impunity for such actions”, it said, adding that a coherent overall strategy to prevent corruption in public institutions “is lacking”.
“In the view of the Assembly, a comprehensive and holistic reform of Malta’s democratic institutions and system of checks and balances is still urgently needed,” the report reads. It also called for a full-time parliament to be established.
PACE had initially come to Malta to analyse the situation in the country following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. Its report, together with that of the Venice Commission, had “laid bare a malfunctioning system of democratic and rule of law institutions”.
In a section titled ‘Rule of Law’, the Assembly said that the deficiencies in the system of checks and balances as well as its rule of law framework have made the Maltese public sector vulnerable to corruption.
“This is compounded by the relatively small size of Malta and the fact that Malta’s economy is primarily geared towards the (offshore) financial services and online gaming sectors,” it says.
The assembly also highlighted Malta’s citizenship by investment programme as “a particular issue of concern in relation to money laundering and corruption”.
In a tweet, former Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt, whose report following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had led to the public inquiry, said that PACE’s conclusion calls to abolish the golden passport scheme.
This morning we adopted the report on Malta on the committee in Paris.
This the draft conclusion.
It includes a call to abolish the golden passport scheme https://t.co/yqKvZI2Ypa
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) May 24, 2022
In a section addressing press freedom issues, the Assembly calls on the Maltese authorities to “fully address the concerns and recommendations expressed” in the report on Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination by the public inquiry board.
Civil society, media, Ombdusman complain about Freedom of Information
The report also raised concerns regarding the implementation and enforcement of the Freedom of information Act.
“Many of the provisions of the act are not enforced by the authorities, or only partially, and with such long delays that they render the information ineffective,” it said.
It said that “most” of the media and civil society representatives that the assembly met during its visit, as well as public institutions such as the Ombudsman complained about the structural lack of follow-up to their requests for information.
“This is an issue of concern that should be remedied without delay. In this context it is important to stress that this cannot be achieved by amending legislation alone, but also need a commensurate change of behavior and a culture of transparency and openness”.
Addressing other press freedom issues, the Assembly labelled SLAPP lawsuits as “an issue of increasing concern”.
The assembly welcomed recent reforms with regards to the independence of the judiciary but said that such reforms “only partially address the concerns and shortcomings that were noted”.
The report also touches upon human rights issues including the situation of migrants and refugees in Malta, and reproductive rights, among others.
You can read the full report here.