LIBE Committee concerned about the slowness of the judicial system and calls on Malta to abolish the passport system

The delegation from the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee has determined that Malta’s “excruciatingly slow” justice system continues to impact the quality and efficiency of justice.

Speaking to journalists at Europe House at the end of the LIBE committee’s visit to Malta, committee chair Sophie in’t Veld said the importance of ending the culture of impunity in the country is crucial for all EU member states, including Malta. In’t Veld said it was “shocking and horrifying” to see there was still no justice for the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia after four and a half years.

She expressed disappointment that even the alleged mastermind of the murder has not been convicted, as well as the alleged perpetrators who have yet to be convicted. In’t Veld said it was “disgusting” that the SLAPP charges against Caruana Galizia, which her family has now inherited, have not yet been dropped.

In’t Veld also raised a number of concerns about the golden passport system, where citizenships were sold particularly to Russian oligarchs. She said the government had tried to argue that the program was useful on its merits, but she said that in light of the war in Ukraine, this program had to be stopped immediately. Malta is the only country that still applies this programme.

Several concerns were raised regarding the functioning of the political systems as well as the functioning of the Maltese Parliament. In’t Veld stressed that Malta must urgently tackle the high amount of debt in which the Labor and Nationalist parties find themselves, as well as the problem of the non-transparent finances of the two parties.

The delegation pointed out that the government and the opposition are not working harmoniously to fight corruption, but instead continue to blame each other for wrongdoing. In’t Veld said there needs to be national unity, and political responsibility for parties, to implement anti-corruption packages, such as the 12 Anti-Corruption Bills corruption that the PN presented in the previous administration, but which were passed with the majority of parliament. She added that all MPs must be equally equipped to control the government.

French MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield said there seems to be partial denial about the corruption situation in Malta. She said Caruana Galizia’s death was kept “low key” and police stopped asking Europol for help following their investigation.

Italian MEP Franco Roberti said his impression was that the reforms undertaken by the Maltese government had been taken only because of the pressure exerted on Malta by entities such as the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), and reforms which, at times were made without conviction, or deemed incomplete, were not made in the interest of the citizens, but rather because of external pressures. Roberti said he was surprised that there was no Justice Commission in Parliament to present and demand reforms. He added that reforms on paper that are not implemented are “non-reform” and that a culture change is needed.

Roberti also expressed his disappointment with the quality of the judicial system, which renders their independence from the state futile. He said there is no specialization or training for judges and magistrates on mafia organizations and investigating such mafia-related cases. Roberti said the quality of the justice system needs to be improved with better training within the system.

Slovak MEP Vladimír Bilčík said justice delayed is justice denied, referring to the case of Caruana Galizia, as well as the justice system in general. He said that in other countries, where similar cases have occurred, the perpetrators have been brought to justice and the officials involved have been charged. He said that without justice, trust and reconciliation in the system cannot be achieved.

The delegation underlined that although there have been improvements and an apparent willingness to implement reforms, such as the independence of the judiciary from the state, this is not enough and there is still a lot to do. He said continued monitoring of the rule of law in Malta will continue.