‘We got the impression that without external pressure reforms would not have been done’ – MEPs

From their latest fact-finding mission in Malta, six civil liberties committee (LIBE) MEPs were given the impression that without external pressure from bodies like the European Union and the Venice Commission, nothing would have been done by authorities to improve Malta’s situation on the rule of law.

Replying to a question by The Shift at a press conference concluding their mission on Wednesday, Italian MEP Franco Roberti said the MEPs had the impression that the reforms done in Malta were done “because Malta couldn’t not do it”.

“There was GRECO, and the European Commission, for example, that were pressing on Malta. We got the impression that without that pressure nothing would have been done. A cultural shift is needed, not because the European Union is putting pressure, but because the citizens demand it,” he said.

“We need a change in mentality, otherwise things wont change, maybe there will be reforms on paper but it wont be implemented,” he added.

Six MEPS from the civil liberties committee (LIBE) arrived in Malta on Monday to investigate what progress has been made with regards to investigations, reforms and court proceedings following the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Throughout their “intensive” three-day mission, they probed specific issues such as the rule of law, judicial reform, the safety of journalists, anti-corruption measures and Malta’s passport scheme.

Answering questions by journalists, Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld, leading the committee, said that the “overall message” from the mission is that although a reform process has been launched, it “lacks pace, lacks speed and some are half-hearted.” She reiterated the need to end the “culture of impunity.”

“The sense of urgency has been lost… we reiterate the urgent need to step up the pace of reforms and see them through completely,” she said, adding that politicians should take ownership and that it is not “a box-ticking exercise“. This message was also reiterated by a report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Tuesday.

In’t Veld listed other issues of importance noted from the MEPs discussions with stakeholders and government, with the main “priority” being the slow judicial proceedings, which “shocked” the MEPs, specifically mentioning the case of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, assassinated by a car bomb on 16 October 2017.

“Four and a half years have passed since the murder of Daphne and still no justice has been served and a number of the accused, including the suspected mastermind Yorgen Fenech, have still not been convicted,” she said, pointing to the progress in the justice case of Jan Kuciak as a comparison.

Passport scheme should be scrapped ‘before EU court makes decision’

The MEPs also voiced their “ongoing concerns” about the golden passport scheme.

“We are a bit disappointed that the government took note of our concerns but insists that the scheme is useful and will be continued,” in’t Veld said. Slovak MEP Vlado Bilčík insisted that Malta should not wait for a decision from the European Courts to end the scheme.

Elaborating on issues with press freedom, in’t Veld highlighted concerns with access to information, SLAPPs and political involvement within the state broadcaster. She called for those who had initiated legal cases against Caruana Galizia to drop the case. “They don’t need to wait for legislation to do that, that would be the decent thing to do,” she said.

Other concerns voiced by the MEPs included the high debts owed by both political parties and that parliament is not a full-time commitment.

Roberti, a former anti-mafia judge, spoke about the need for judges specialising in the mafia to be specialised in Malta, and investment in an independent judiciary.

In’t Veld said she has noticed a lot more people pushing for reform and a “change in mentality”.  Yet the committee will continue to monitor developments in Malta “closely”, including through more country visits. Bilčík added that Malta will remain a priority for monitoring.

“We will persevere not just in this specific case (of Daphne Caruana Galizia) but until fundamental changes to the system of justice are made,” he said.

                           
                               
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carmelo borg
28 days ago

Judge Roberti hawn ghandna il post fejn inweldu il MAFİA HANİNİ. Ghadek ma tafx xejn amico. F ghawdex kien ghamel zmien jghix TOTO RİİNİ

James
James
28 days ago

The only way change can take place is by external pressure.

The E.U. cannot let the pressure drop!!

carlos
28 days ago

NOT ENOUGH- More is expected of the EU after so many scandals.

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