Rule-of-law concerns in Malta highlighted to European Commission
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Rule-of-law concerns in Malta highlighted to European Commission

‘We have not seen anything like a strong enough response from the Maltese government’

From left: Jeroen Lenaers, Ana Gomes and Monica Macovei.

From left: Jeroen Lenaers, Ana Gomes and Monica Macovei.

Members of the European Parliament are again calling on the European Commission to address shortcomings in Malta’s rule of law and are asking the EU executive whether it sees scope for “constructive dialogue” with the government on the issues flagged up.

Referring to the report drawn up by the Venice Commission in December following a fact-finding mission to the island to probe the state of the rule of law, three MEPs from different political groupings – Jeroen Lenaers (European People’s Party), Ana Gomes (Party of European Socialists) and Monica Macovei (European Conservatives and Reformists) – asked the Commission whether it agreed there is “a serious risk for the rule of law in Malta”.

In their questions, the three MEPs also asked whether the Commission was “willing to engage in a constructive dialogue under the rule of law framework”.

Read: What rule of law experts said about Malta - and why it matters

In comments to The Sunday Times of Malta on Saturday, Dutch MEP Jeroen Lenaers said the questions had been prompted by the belief in Brussels that “the situation in Malta remains of concern”.

There are very serious deficiencies with the system

“There are very serious deficiencies with the system there that the Venice Commission has objectively  identified, which when combined with the very serious allegations of abuse of power, impunity, corruption, the way the government continues to react to the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the continued sale of EU citizenship, gives rise to grave concerns,” Mr Lenaers said.

In its opinion on Malta published in December, the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law, concluded that better checks and balances were required for the proper functioning of the rule of law. It also remarked that the wide power enjoyed by the Prime Minister created a serious risk for the rule of law.

Read: Government will implement Venice Commission recommendations - Muscat

“We have not seen anything like a strong enough response from the Maltese government – which continues to act as if what they do in Malta has no effect on other member states,” the Dutch MEP went on.

The Commission, he argued, had a role to ensure that every Member State acted in line with the values enshrined in the EU treaties.

“Malta is not an exception. This is not about punishing any Member State, we want dialogue, and it is about trying to improve the situation, protecting the rights of both Maltese and EU citizens and the rights of every citizen in other Member States.

“We have a system based on the rule of law, justice and mutual trust that must be protected, or the very integrity of our entire system will come under fire.”

At the European Parliament, questions are addressed by MEPs to other EU institutions and bodies and serve as a direct form of parliamentary scrutiny of these other institutions and bodies. Written questions, as were the ones submitted by the three MEPs on Malta, require a written answer.

Rule of law NGO Repubblika formally set up

Forty individuals on Friday night formally set up Repubblika, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to promote democracy and the rule of law in Malta.

Repubblika has been set up to promote civil rights, democratic life, the rule of law, free speech, personal freedoms, social inclusion, environmental conservation, economic sustainability and equality of access.

This will be done by means of active participation in the national discourse and related educational, social and charitable initiatives.

Members approved the election of Repubblika’s first executive committee which will be chaired by Marion Pace Asciaq. Robert Aquilina is general secretary and Paula Fleri-Soler is treasurer.

Repubblika will now apply for registration with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations and in the Register for Legal Persons as required at law.

The founding members approved the organisation’s statute that is now published on Repubblika’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Repubblika.

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