Dear friends and all those who are interested,
This Thursday (25/3/2021) the European Parliament will discuss the rule of law in Malta and recent developments in the investigation of the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Commission is expected to give a statement on the matter. Reason for the last-minute addition to the plenary agenda is the arrest of Keith Schembri, former head of cabinet of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who resigned in January 2020. Muscat resigned after mounting international pressure for failing to investigate deep-seated corruption and money laundering in his own government. Schembri and 10 others are accused of several counts of corruption, money laundering and fraud in relation to a number of cases. Schembri also faces accusations related to the sale of Maltese passports. In September 2020, the European Commission published a damning report on the poor state of the rule of law in Malta, especially as regards impunity for corruption and financial crime. Equally the Council of Europe has consistently followed up the lack of rule of law in Malta.
While the EU Commission will be present in plenary, the Council has refused to participate. A resolution on the rule of law in Malta will only be voted during the April plenary. Unfortunately, the S&D group did not support having a resolution at all.
The investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was murdered in October 2017, played a key role in uncovering these crimes. On the third anniversary of her death, the European Parliament launched on Green initiative the “The Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism”. It will be awarded in October 2021 for the first time.
The additional plenary debate on Thursday will begin at 14:30 (CET) and can be followed live via the website of the European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/plenary/en/home.html
MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group and member of several European Parliament delegations to Malta, commented:
“It is good news that Keith Schembri finally faces trial for corruption, money laundering and forgery. For too long, he has remained untouched by the investigation even though the evidence of his crimes while he was head of cabinet is crushing. The misappropriation of state funds must have consequences. It is now in the hands of the Maltese Justice System to end the de facto impunity for financial crime. Malta needs fundamental institutional reforms to strengthen the rule of law. While the prosecution of individual cases is crucial, the systemic causes need to be addressed, too.
Europe has a responsibility to ensure that there are political consequences following the crucial revelations made by Daphne and others. The European Commission must urgently initiate infringement proceedings against Member States that systematically violate the rule of law, including Malta. So far, the Commission has also not delivered on a request by the European Parliament to investigate the state of democracy and the protection of fundamental rights in Malta. The seriousness and extent of the accusations against Keith Schembri and others proves that such an investigation is urgently needed.
One big question remains: What was Schembri’s role in the assasination of Daphne Caruana Galizia? His connection to Jorgen Fenech, who is accused of hiring the hit men and whose trial is to start in a few months, is too strong to be ignored. The trials of Schembri and Fenech now offer the opportunity to finally get to the bottom of this murder. At the European Parliament, we demand that no stone remains unturned until all those responsible for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia face justice. The culture of impunity for corruption and for people like Schembri, Fenech & Co. must come to an end now.“
The Commission’s 2020 report on the rule of law in Malta is available here: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1602583018021&uri=CELEX%3A52020SC0317
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