MEPs are concerned about the credibility of investigations into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and the lack of progress on related accusations.

In a resolution adopted with 581 votes to 26 and 83 abstentions, Parliament stresses that “any risk of compromising the investigations (…) must be excluded by all means” and warns that this risk will persist for “as long as the Prime Minister remains in office”.

Following the latest revelations about the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 and subsequent political instability in Malta, a European Parliament delegation travelled to the country from 3 to 4 December to assess the situation on the ground. Its draft mission report will be discussed in the Civil Liberties Committee early next year.

The text points to the allegations of corruption and money laundering against the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, and in particular his Chief of Staff and the former Minister for Tourism, other government members and private companies and individuals connected to them, regretting that parallel investigations “have not advanced or have not even been launched”.

Protect democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights

“Developments in Malta in recent years have led to serious and persistent threats to the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights”, says the EP, highlighting its concerns over freedom of the media, the independence of the police and judiciary, the freedom of peaceful assembly and the separation of powers.

MEPs welcome recent comments by Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová, stating that Malta’s failure to enact judicial reforms could serve as a basis for triggering an Article 7 procedure. They reiterate the need to establish a permanent, independent EU-wide mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights to safeguard the EU’s values.

Parliament also asks for Malta’s investor citizenship and residence schemes to be abolished, as these effectively sell EU citizenship and pose a threat to anti-money laundering efforts, the fight against cross-border crime and the integrity of the Schengen area.

Finally, the text welcomes the creation of an annual “European Daphne Caruana Galizia prize for outstanding investigative journalism”. The necessary arrangements to set this prize up should be finalised as soon as possible.

S&D MEPs voted in favour of the resolution on the rule of law in Malta.

“Today’s vote comes after a delegation of MEPs was sent to Malta in early December on a fact-finding mission to look at the situation of the rule of law.  After meetings with the Maltese authorities and Europol, the fact is that there have been breakthroughs in the investigations into the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But independent investigations are ongoing and we need to let the Maltese authorities continue the work so that the truth can come out and those responsible can be brought to justice,” said Claude Moraes, vice-president of the S&D Group.

“When it comes to upholding the rule of law across the EU, the fact is that the EU lacks any effective tool to deal with rule of law concerns in an independent and even-handed manner in all EU Member States. With several cases in different Member States where democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights have been abused, a permanent EU-wide mechanism is needed now more than ever.”

“The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia has been shocking for all of us. It is beyond doubt that all perpetrators and accomplices must be held accountable. Therefore, it is imperative that investigations continue with the support of Europol and that the case is brought to a proper conclusion. Furthermore, there is no way around getting on with the judicial and constitutional reforms in Malta, with the support of the Venice Commission and in close dialogue with the European Commission, and we welcome the steps taken by both the Maltese government and the parliament. Things are moving in the right direction, but there is still some way to go,” added Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson for the LIBE committee.