The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee has expressed “serious concerns” over the rule of law in Malta and Slovakia.
Following the conclusions of a working group set up by the committee to investigate the status of the rule of law in the EU generally and focusing particularly on Malta and Slovakia in the wake of the murders of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and Kuciak’s fiancée Martina Kušnírová; the committee formally condemned the “continuous efforts of a growing number of EU member states’ governments to weaken the rule of law, the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary”.
Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist described by current affairs website Politico as a “one-woman Wikileaks”, was killed in Malta by a car bomb in October 2017. The committee has called on the Maltese government to establish an independent public inquiry into her murder, which has yet to be solved; and for the multiple libel cases still open against Caruana Galizia – these cases, brought before her death and now being fought by her surviving family, are believed to have been instigated in an attempt to suppress her reporting on corruption – to be dropped.
MEPs acknowledged the ongoing investigation into the deaths of Kuciak and Kušnírová, who were shot dead in their home in Slovakia in February 2018; and emphasised that the investigation must continue both on a national and international level. They further insisted that the issues of corruption and fraud reported on by Kuciak be subject to full investigation.
The committee’s report noted the endemic failings of the rule of law in Malta as described by the Venice Commission in December 2018 and urged the government to implement the commission’s recommendations as soon as possible. MEPs demanded the immediate termination of Malta’s investor residence and citizenship schemes, which allow foreigners to attain Maltese citizenship or residency in return for a substantial investment, on the basis that such schemes promote the “sale of EU citizenship”.
Sophie in ‘t Veld (ALDE, NL) Chair of the Rule of Law Monitoring Group, said: “These findings are very worrying. Journalists too often face threats to their safety in the EU. The situation in Malta is particularly worrying. There is an ongoing hate campaign against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia. The truth about her murder risks being swept under the carpet, while the rule of law is undermined. The sale of EU citizenship cannot continue. The government also has to step up its fight against corruption and money laundering.”