Labour Party MEPs were left isolated in a tense European Parliament debate over the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination, with rival MEPs labelling the murder as a “political plot”.
“The ruling party knew of the plot to assassinate Caruana Galizia,” EPP’s Manfred Weber said at the start of the debate, referencing the recent allegations concerning former Minister and Deputy Leader Chris Cardona’s alleged involvement.
It set the tone for what was to come with MEP after MEP reiterating that the road to justice is long, and there was still far more work to do to ensure the rule of law was being respected in Malta and that its institutions were functioning.
MEP Cyrus Engerer probably got the worst reaction. Engerer’s brief intervention argued that political debates on ongoing proceedings would deter the course of justice and were simply geared at politicising the process.
However, the MEP that came next fired off a cutting remark.
“Well, the Maltese language is used for this particular kind of lie,” she said. “Daphne was humiliated before she was assassinated, she was shown no decency in Maltese or in English,” she continued.
PL MEPs Alex Agius Saliba, Alfred Sant, and Josianne Cutajar all echoed similar sentiments to Engerer – insisting with the parliament that the institutions were working – noting that while the sitting was underway, Melvin Theuma was testifying in the case against Yorgen Fenech; and Nexia BT and other figures were in court for money-laundering charges.
“This debate will only create further division in the county,” Cutajar said. “The promise for justice to be served is being fully realised,” Sant added.
PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa strongly disagreed. Metsola insisted that claims that this was simply partisan bickering were entirely unfounded, calling for the introduction of strong anti-SLAPP directives to assist journalists. She stressed that the behaviour of “criminals posing as politicians” was not reflective of a “hardworking and honest” population.
Casa, meanwhile, went so far as to say that some people in government are willing to defend “murderers and crooks”.
The session kicked off with a statement from EU Commissioner Vera Jourouva, who welcomed reforms to both Malta’s judiciary and Prime Minister’s Office following international pressure.
Jourova noted that significant reforms had been adopted. However, she vociferously backed the importance of the public inquiry, which the government has often criticised. Meanwhile, she was also insistent that major delays in the judicial system remain a serious issue for the country.
Weber, who opened the MEP’s interventions, echoed a common sentiment throughout the sitting. He said that while the judicial process has been progressing slowly, there are still concerns that political institutions remain captured, noting concerns about Alfred and George Degirogios willingness to reveal information concerning the involvement of current and former Cabinet members in major crime.
Sophie in ’t Veld, an ALDE MEP who has led delegations into Malta’s issues, went a step forward – claiming that police have only been able to secure justice through the help of pardons and letting criminals walk away with far lesser charges.
“Too much time has passed, allowing for the destruction of evidence. Police need to pardon criminals to build their cases – that is not real justice,” she said.
All sides from the political divide in the EP seemed to back a resolution into the issue, except the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), to which the Labour Patry forms part.
The S&D was steadfast in that justice must be done but questioned the necessity of a resolution, actually urging the EP to start linking the rule of law with the budget for member states.
Commissioner Jurova closed the sitting by stressing that whenever she read Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work, she found she was right.
“I realise she is still working for us and for the truth. Daphne is a stark reminder of SLAPP suits and their impact. Journalists should spend time investigating, informing citizens and not fighting ingenious claims,” she said.
The debate was held on a resolution which will be voted on next month.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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