Ten days after being reconfirmed Prime Minister of Malta with a second historic landslide vote, Joseph Muscat is today facing tough questions by MEPs over Panama Papers and the rule of law in Malta.
Muscat has spent more than a year battling accusations of government corruption after two of his closest aides Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were revealed to have opened company structures in Panama. The debate to be held today in Strasbourg was technically an initiative of the Greens in Parliament, but it won over the support of the EPP Group, which includes the Nationalist Party.
The plenary session was originally intended to take place during the election campaign but on Muscat’s request it was postponed. His electoral victory, which has impressed European politicians across the board, is likely to deflate some MEPs.
In a press conference before the debate, Green MEP Sven Giegold, who is on the frontline of the European Parliament committee investigating Panama Papers, said he had an informal chat with Muscat yesterday but this did not change the way the Greens would proceed on the matter.
Giegold said he wrote a letter to the European Commission asking it to conduct its own investigation on potential infringement by Malta of the Anti-Money Laundering directive and the Capital Investments Directive.
“Elections in Malta do not replace the need for a fair investigation,” he said, adding that Maltese Parliament should also open its own investigation on the Panama Papers and Pilatus Bank scandals.
“Malta is moving more and more towards Hungary when it comes to democracy. This is very worrying,” he added.
Giegold noted that Schembri and Mizzi had been re-appointed to the government after the election and said this continued to harm the reputation of Malta.
PN MEPs Roberta Metsola and David Casa are expected to be among the MEPs asking questions to Dr Muscat, who has described this as the Opposition’s first test after its resounding defeat at the polls.
The debate will not end with a vote.