Valletta 2018 chairman Jason Micallef’s derogatory Facebook posts against assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia are making waves in the Netherlands, with Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok now asked to directly intervene.
The CDA, a junior coalition partner in the Dutch government, has urged Blok to exert diplomatic pressure on the Maltese government to apologise for and distance itself from Micallef’s comments, which mocked the late journalist’s last words and called for the removal of her Valletta memorial.
Two months ago, the Dutch town of Leuuwarden – which is sharing the status of European Capital of Culture with Valletta this year – decided to cut off ties with its Maltese partner and not send any representatives to Malta until it publicly distances itself from Micallef’s comments.
Fast-forward two months and relations between the two capitals of culture appear to have grown more tetchy.
Sietske Poepjes, the regional minister for the Dutch province Friesland – of which Leuuwarden is capital – published a SMS she had sent Malta’s Justice and Culture Minister Owen Bonnici to remind him about his promise to meet up with her.
“Hate to bother you but I wanted you to know that things are heating up here in Friesland,” Poepjes told Bonnici. “I have some questions from journalists about your visit and the public discussion and debate about the freedom of the press. People are wondering why there isn’t a date yet. Tomorrow, I have some questions in our Provincial Assembly about this. Can we please set a date? What is the best time for you? Because I think that some people over here are questioning the honesty of your offer. I hate to see that happen.”
Dutch Foreign Affairs minister Stef Blok
Poepjes told the Leuuwarder Courant that Bonnici ignored her messages and that she feels he doesn’t take Friesland seriously, even though the Dutch province is as big as Malta.
So now the CDA of which she forms part of is pressuring Foreign Minister Stef Blok to intervene directly and pressure Malta to distance itself from Micallef’s comments.
“Blok is a minister and can exert pressure on the Maltese government to apologise for Micallef’s statements and insist on a proper investigation into this attack. It is unacceptable that a journalist is blown up in Europe, this is not Russia.”
Another Dutch MP from the CDA, Pieter Omtzigt, was recently appointed as the Council of Europe’s special rapporteur into the assassination of Caruana Galizia, where he has been tasked with monitoring both the investigations into her murder and the broader circumstances surrounding her death.