Malta has made little to no progress in the adoption of rule of law recommendations made by the European Commission since last year, according to the Commission’s 2023 Rule of Law Report, published on Wednesday.
Of six main areas of recommendations, Malta registered ‘some progress’ on three, with ‘no progress’ made on the rest, with the Commission noting that “the efficiency of justice has further deteriorated”, “no measures have been adopted to improve the working environment of journalists”, and that the 2019 Constitutional Convention “remains on hold without a clear calendar”.
The report went on to make further recommendations for additional checks in the appointment of chief justices, improvements to the efficiency with which high level corruption cases are tackled, an improved working environment for journalists which includes freer access to information, and editorial independence in public service media, among others.
When discussing the Maltese justice system, the report noted that while the level of “perceived judicial independence in Malta remains high, no steps have been taken to involve the judiciary in the procedure for appointment of the Chief Justice”, a measure which has been recommended in some form by many institutions for years.
The report also raised concerns about the quality of the justice system, noting that although new judges have been appointed a lack of resources has “further deteriorated” the efficiency of justice.
While Malta’s Anti-Fraud and Corruption strategy “was updated on time” and “prosecution was launched in relation to some cases”, the report noted how “challenges related to high-level corruption cases, including the lack of a robust track record of final judgments remain,” and that “the capacity of the Permanent Commission Against Corruption to reach tangible results remains low.”
The report once again also raised concerns about Malta’s ‘Citizenship by Investment’ scheme as well as the updated procedure through which the new Commissioner for Standards in Public Life was appointed.
With regards to media and press freedom, the report noted how “the media reform process launched following the publication of the report of the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry is still ongoing,” stating that “no measures have been adopted to improve the working environment of journalists”.
The continued lack of access to information by media houses and journalists was also noted in particular, with the report also mentioning how “no steps have been taken to enhance the independence of public service media,” with “no developments with regard to the legislative framework establishing the Broadcasting Authority”, conclusions which were independently arrived at in a Media Freedom and Plurality report by the European University Institute.
The report also called for the introduction of “a framework for public participation in the legislative process” and warned that Malta had made “no progress on re-launching efforts to establish a National Human Rights Institution taking into account the UN Paris Principles.”