Malta fell under the spotlight of the European Parliament tonight, as MEPs debated the rule of law in the country in the wake of the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The European People’s Party, the political family of the PN, used the occasion to try and urge the European Commission to commence instant dialogue with the Maltese government on the rule of law on the island in a similar manner as it had recently done with Hungary and Poland, but this call fell on deaf ears.
Instead, European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said Brussels will await the conclusion of the investigations into Caruana Galizia’s murder and consider action if investigations uncover links to corruption and organised crime.
Yet the debate also exposed what some MEPs think of Malta and the assassination of Caruana Galizia, and some of the quotes below are quite eye-opening.
1. ‘The eyes of Europe are fixed on Malta’ – Frank Timmermans, EC vice-president
“It is the duty of Malta to investigate this case and prosecute the people behind it, and the Maltese authorities and institutions must deliver on their commitments to ensure the perpetrators will be bought to justice. They must show the world their rules and regulations are robust, and if the investigation exposes problems of a more general and systematic nature, then these will be addressed by the EC regardless of the consequences. The eyes of Europe are firmly fixed on Malta because the murder of a brave journalist like Daphne is of grave concern to us all.”
2. ‘The EU failed Daphne’ – Esteban Gonzalez Pons – EPP
“Daphne died facing 42 libel cases and without access to her own bank account. They [sic] made her life impossible before her death, and they began killing her before they finally killed her off. They didn’t kill a judge, a policeman or a politician but a journalist. This is more than the killing of one troublesome journalist but a direct threat to all of us and an attack on our freedom of expression.”
“The EU failed Daphne. Being a European citizen was of no use to her because no one protected her enough. The Maltese authorities should have guaranteed her and her family safety but they didn’t act. The murder is a dark shadow on our conscience as proud Europeans, and the EU cannot remain silent on what is happening in Malta. Our silence would mean victory for Daphne’s murderers and defeat for democratic institutions.”
3. ‘This reminded me of the Mafia’ – Gianni Pittella – S&D
“Whoever carried out this attack is an enemy of Europe, and we must shoulder responsibility by making our best services available to Malta and by giving the necessary political response. When I saw this attack, I instantly thought of the bomb which killed Giovanni Falcone and of our fight against the Sicilian mafia. We held sway back then because we were united, and we must be united again today.”
4. ‘The entire Maltese government should resign’ – Monica Macovei – ECR
“Daphne was WikiLeaks in female form and she died because she exposed corruption in Malta, such as money which had been sent from Azerbaijan [a reference to the Egrant allegations]. Who will investigate the Prime Minister? Was Daphne killed because she had made Joseph Muscat’s position uncomfortable? I think the Prime Minister and his entire government should resign after this.”
“As her son said, Daphne died because she wanted to live under the rule of law. The Mafia has not been eradicated, and we now have organised crime groups sending very clear warning signals to others who write about hidden money.”
5. ‘We owe it to Daphne to eradicate Maltese corruption’ – Sophia in’t Veld – ALDE
“We must all show Daphne’s courage and take action. The Maltese government must investigate the murder and make sure the murderers do not get away with impunity, but those who had wanted her gone shouldn’t get away with impunity. Daphne was not no ordinary person, but a person who was exposing corruption and crime. This isn’t a Maltese problem but a European one, because we’re talking here about international chains of money laundering.”
“The European Commission can investigate allegations of corruption if there are fears the Maltese judiciary and police aren’t acting independently. If one member state doesn’t uphold European standards on rule of law, then that would mean there is no rule of law in Europe, so its in all our interests to investigate. Yes, it is painful but this is a political union and we owe it to Daphne to ensure these problems are eradicated.”
6. ‘Daphne’s murder exposed links between crime and power’- Miguel Urban Crespo – GUE/NGL
“Tax havens in the EU bring together tax fraud, corruption and organised crime, and the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has shown the links between criminal networks and oligarchies. Revelations like the Panama Papers are only possible thanks to journalists like Daphne and it’s important that we start putting the interests of whistleblowers ahead of the interests of businessmen.”
7. ‘Malta has sold its sovereignty to dirty money’ – Sven Giegold – Greens
“Daphne was one of the most courageous people to fight for the rule of law in Europe, and the way she was killed tells us a lot about the criminal system she was fighting. She was killed in broad daylight, a brutal demonstration of power by people who think they stand above the law. They did not place a bomb under the car of the police commissioner or the Attorney General but under the car of the person who had exposed letterbox companies by members of government, the sale of passports, tax avoidance for multinationals, and weak supervision of Malta’s online gambling sector. Malta has sold its sovereignty to dirty money, and has replaced the rule of law with a culture of impunity for the powerful. This is Europe not Russia, and we must act when our fundamental rights are at stake.”
“We support the call by Daphne’s family for Joseph Muscat to step down for failing to uphold the rule of law and propose the establishment of a European Galizia Price for Investigative Journalism.”
8. ‘Politicians are often behind such attacks’ – Ignazio Corrao – Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy
“This attack takes me back to mafia bombings in Italy and we’re all aware that those behind such attacks are often in politics. Daphne had been threatened for some time but was left on her own and was murdered in the most brutal fashion. She had levelled accusations against Maltese politicians and made their lives uncomfortable, and we now need to find out who ordered the murder.”