Deep concern over Prime Minsiter Joseph Muscat’s delayed resignation was a damning takeaway from a delegation of MEPs that visited Malta yesterday… but it definitely wasn’t the only one.
The third of its kind to visit Malta inquiring into the murder of Caruana Galizia and led by Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, the delegation met key individuals, including Joseph Muscat and other government members, the police, judicial authorities, the opposition, representatives of civil society and journalists, as well as members of the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, amongst others.
In a press conference held after two days’ worth of meetings, the delegation had a word or two to say… and it wasn’t all too pretty.
Here are 12 damning things the MEP delegation had to say about the current state of civil liberties, justice and home affairs in Malta.
1. “[Muscat] says he’s got nothing to hide. If you’ve got nothing to hide, publish the [Egrant] report. What’s so difficult?”
“He should give all the information, but he has not been very generous with information so far,” Sophie in ‘t Veld said, bringing the infamous Egrant report back in the spotlight and adding that Muscat should immediately publish the full report that never saw the light of day.
2. “We all agree that the resignation of the Prime Minister is now necessary.”
“But of course, in the best case ever, it can only be a very small step.”
3. “I have faith in Europol… but they do not have operational powers.”
“They’re not doing it alone, they’re not in charge of the investigation. That’s not the way it works. Europol is invited by national police forces to provide assisstance. So they can not themselves conduct the investigation.”
4. Malta… or Africa?
“I am very much in shock,” MEP Assita Kanko, who is originally from Burkino Faso, said. “Honestly, I never knew, that when I was growing up in a little village in Africa, I would one day experience what I’m experiencing now, in one member of the European Union.”
5. “Malta deserves better”
Calling back on Daphne Caruana Galizia, the MEPs noted how it is the assassinated journalist – and the fact that she was killed while trying to get to the bottom of serious corruption leads – that needs to be representative of the true values of Malta.
6. On Muscat’s “remarkable” continued role as Prime Minister while investigations are still ongoing
“Reports like this have been coming out every day. Every day you hear a little bit more, more revelations. And it’s only added to our concerns about the continued presence of Mr Muscat in the office of the Prime Minister. It’s actually quite remarkable.”
7. On the presumption of innocence… and inaction
“The presumption of innocence is part of the rule of law, but if you use it in the wrong way, it leads to injustice.”
8. “Either Muscat’s been incredibly naive, or he was part of the problem and working with Schembri.”
“I find it very hard to imagine how that worked. The Prime Minsiter was in his office every day with his closest confidant, Mr Schembri,” Sophie in ‘t Veld probed further.
“Schembri’s name pops up in every case; related to people who are in murder cases, corruption, offshore companies, Panama Papers, what have you. So what does that say about the Prime Minister?”
9. “During this 40-day period where Muscat will still be there… the risk for the murder investigation is a big concern.”
“Parliament is suspended, so nobody will be looking over his shoulder.”
10. “It is very clear, very clear, that there are very severe concerns over the rule of law”
11. “The livelihood of journalists is under threat”
“We get very worrying signals about the safety of journalists,” Sophie in ‘t Veld continued, moving on to the last couple of weeks of protests and how they were received both online and on the streets.
“There are threats to the right of peaceful demonstration, and I can say that personally to you because I made the same remark 15 months ago when we were here.”
“I’m very annoyed to see the hate campaign against certain people in particular – the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia – has not stopped,” Sophie in ‘t Veld went on. “And it has to stop.”
12. “The bipartisan system leads to a bipartisan culture which has become almost toxic”
“We have also noticed that this is not just about political institutions. This is also about political culture. And that is something that needs to be addressed.”
You can watch the full, 29-minute press conference here.
The delegation comprised of the following MEPs:
- Sophie In ‘t Veld (Renew, Netherlands)
- Birgit Sippel (S&D, Germany)
- Roberta Metsola (EPP, Malta)
- Lars Patrick Berg (ID, Germany)
- Sven Giegold (Greens/EFA, Germany)
- Assita Kanko (ECR, Belgium)
- Stelios Kouloglou (GUE/NGL, Greece)