Malta has a lot of crime

Murder case in Malta: EU with criticism - and demonstrative restraint

Malta's Prime Minister Josep Muscat was under increasing pressure in Brussels yesterday, Thursday: demands for his immediate resignation in light of the ongoing investigation into the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Anne Caruana Galizia in 2017 were again loud.

The Maltese Prime Minister had previously announced that he would resign in mid-January. As the investigation now also suggests that some high-ranking government officials may be involved in the case, demands are mounting that Muscat should resign with immediate effect.

When the European heads of state and government met in Brussels yesterday for an EU summit, a protest was held in front of Malta's permanent representation to the EU.

Manfred Weber, the chairman of the conservative EPP, the largest group in the European Parliament, has been calling for a tougher stance for weeks: the Maltese prime minister must resign.

At a meeting of the EPP in the run-up to the current EU Council meeting, the German politician made it clear that he supported the demonstrations in Brussels against Muscat. He added that he could not understand why it would take the Maltese prime minister another five weeks to resign.

On Thursday evening, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the press that he had a long personal conversation with Muscat about the investigation in Malta at the EU summit. Rutte said it was "crucial" that the Maltese government is not involved in the investigation and prosecution. He also indicated that resigning with immediate effect would certainly help the process.

Muscat and the Galizia case

Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia had devoted her working life to investigating and uncovering corruption cases at the highest level of the Maltese government. She was murdered on October 16, 2017.

Meanwhile, former government chief of staff Keith Schembri has been accused of trying to influence the investigation. He warned Yorgen Fenech, who is suspected of complicity in the murder, and gave him clues.

In addition, in a recent testimony in court, Melvin Theuma, who presumably acted as the “middleman” in the murder, pointed to the involvement of “sometimes high-ranking” government officials in the murder case.

Schembri is considered the "mastermind" behind Muscat's last two successful election campaigns.

Mafia film in Malta

In the end, the pressure became overwhelming: Malta's Prime Minister Muscat announced his resignation for January. The businessman Yorgen Fenech, now indicted in the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, accuses his government. EURACTIV's media partner Deutsche Welle reports.

EU summit: not all against Muscat

But not all are calling for Muscat to resign immediately. For example, the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, has so far avoided expressing his concerns about the Maltese Prime Minister too directly. Like Muscat, he belongs to the social democratic parties in Europe.

On the sidelines of the EU summit on Thursday, Sassoli merely said that the letter from a delegation of MEPs who visited Malta last week shows the "correct conclusions".

The letter stated quite clearly that Muscat's belated resignation and the suspension of Parliament in Malta could "pose a serious risk, real or perceived, that the murder and related investigations will be compromised". The letter was signed by Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chairman of the parliamentary committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, and Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch Liberal MP who headed the parliament's delegation to Malta.

After her return from Malta last week, in 't Veld made it unmistakably clear in an interview with EURACTIV.com that Muscat had to "leave immediately" so that the independence of the investigation could be preserved.

Sassoli only said on Wednesday evening that such a letter was "the fairest and most appropriate mechanism for the European Parliament to express its position". The President of Parliament was obviously reluctant to criticize Muscat directly.

He evaded further inquiries from reporters and merely pointed out that a court case was currently ongoing in Malta. This will bring clarity.

S&D is holding back

A source in parliament told EURACTIV that the Social Democrats in Brussels may be reluctant to take a proactive stance against the Muscat government in Malta, given that the Prime Minister is part of their own political family.

With his reluctance, Sassoli follows the “social democratic line”, according to the source. But it should be criticized: "He puts party affiliation before more important issues."

The Galizia murder leads to resignations within the government of Malta

Two years after the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the case leads to resignations in the government of Malta. Both the cabinet chief of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Keith Schembri, and tourism minister Konrad Mizzi resigned from their posts.

MEPs are likely to discuss the issue again at the European Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg next week. A resolution on the rule of law will then also be adopted in Malta.

At the beginning of this week, a group of European media companies wrote to the leaders of the EU countries that are currently meeting in Brussels, calling on them to put more pressure on the Maltese Prime Minister. It must be ensured that a fair investigation of the murder of Caruana Galizia can take place.

“Our organizations now call on European Union leaders to urge Prime Minister Muscat to ensure that all investigations and legal proceedings are conducted impartially, promptly and effectively, and without the involvement or influence of any person who may be involved in the case , “It says in the letter. The signatories also include the European Center for Press and Media Freedom, the Association of European Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

From Malta itself, Caruana Galizia's son Andrew called for "more participation" on the part of the EU in the ongoing investigations.

“Many of the crimes my mother exposed were European crimes; Crimes for which several European jurisdictions were responsible, ”he told the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), an advisory body to the EU.

At the recent EESC plenary session in Brussels, he criticized: “It is impossible for a single police force to bring justice to these numerous crimes. EU membership enables the free flow of money and political support at European level, but no unhindered cooperation in judicial and police investigations. "

[Edited by Frédéric Simon and Tim Steins]

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