Tag Archives: Malta

Malta: MEPs delegation visit

Brussels 22.05.2022 On 23-25 May, six MEPs of the Civil Liberties Committee will assess progress in the investigations, trials, and reforms that followed the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Two and a half years after the last visit of an EP delegation to the country in the context of ongoing efforts to strengthen EU values, MEPs will return to Malta on 23-25 May.

The aim of the visit -organised upon the recommendation of the Monitoring Group on Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights (DRFMG) is to take stock of the latest developments as regards the rule of law, recent judicial reforms, safety of journalists, anti-corruption measures, and citizenship and residence by investment schemes. Communication between Maltese authorities and the DRFMG, as well as the group’s work in this area, continued throughout the pandemic.

The delegation comprises the following MEPs:

Vladimír BILČÍK (EPP, SK)
Franco ROBERTI (S&D, IT)
Sophie IN ‘T VELD (Renew, NL), Delegation Chair
Gwendoline DELBOS-CORFIELD (Greens/EFA, FR)
Nicolaus FEST (ID, DE)
Konstantinos ARVANITIS (The Left, EL).

They will meet with:
the President of the Republic of Malta Dr George Vella
the Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela and Cabinet Members
Chief Justice Mark Chetcuti (tbc)
Attorney General Dr Victoria Buttigieg
the Speaker of the Parliament of Malta Hon Anġlu Farrugia
Members of the Parliament of Malta.
They will also hold discussions with commissioners and senior civil servants, representatives of Europol (the EU’s police agency) and regulatory bodies, as well as NGOs, civil society, journalists and representatives of the Daphne Project, and the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Malta: legacy media support

Brussels 22.05.2022 The Maltese government has announced a €500,000 fund for support of printed newspapers (legacy media), to reduce the impact of a hike in printing and paper prices due to the war in Ukraine.

In a statement, the government said Maltese printed journalism had been “impacted by the current extraordinary circumstances, in addition to the major challenges already being experienced by this sector.”

Within this context of hardships for legacy media Prime Minister Robert Abela led a meeting together with finance minister Clyde Caruana and minister for arts Owen Bonnici, with the Institute of Maltese Journalists at Auberge de Castille and a committee of newspaper publishers.

“The role of the newspaper as an integral part of contemporary media, and its key role as a strong instrument of democracy, were also discussed. In view of this crucial role, government will be stepping in and assisting the sector accordingly,” Abela said.

“The government will be providing financial assistance to newspaper publishers, as they currently face significant challenges due to the substantial increase in the price of paper,” the Prime minister added.

Maltese newspaper publishers employ around 66 journalists full-time together with several part-timers, and issue 14 different newspapers, published daily, weekly, and on Sundays.

Europarliament: Roberta Metsola elected president

Strasbourg 18.01.2022 Maltese centre-right politician Roberta Metsola succeed the Italian David Sassoli in Strasbourg and Brussels, at the head of the European Parliament. Several candidates have been promoted to replace the Italian Socialist David Sassoli, who died on January 11 from the complications of myeloma cancer at the age of 65 and whose mandate was due to end this month.

The election of the President of the European Parliament has taken place by secret ballot on Tuesday 18 January, in plenary session in Strasbourg. Roberta Metsola MEP from the party assembling European center-right, became, at 42, the youngest president of this European institution. Although it is a huge leap forward for equity agenda, there are also a number of MUST KNOW facts to understand Roberta Metsola vertical ascendance:

As a politician she has spent her entire career in the European institutions.
Roberta Metsola, born in 1979, graduated from the University of Malta and the College of Europe in Bruges (Belgium). A professional lawyer, she is “a pure product of the Brussels bubble”, sums up the Politico site. Speaking fluent Italian and Finnish, the Maltese worked from 2004 to 2012 in the Permanent Representation of Malta to the European Union in Brussels. Roberta Metsola headed the Justice and Home Affairs unit there, after having held the position of legal and judicial cooperation attaché.

The Maltese specialist in European law and policy subsequently collaborated with Baroness Catherine Ashton, First ever High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as legal adviser, specifies the European People’s Party in her biography.

Appointed MEP in 2013, replacing Simon Busuttil, Roberta Metsola thus became one of the first Maltese representatives sitting in Strasbourg. A member of the Maltese Nationalist Party, she was re-elected in the 2014 European elections with a “record number of votes for a woman”, underlines the Europoean think tank Bruegel.

As an MEP, Roberta Metsola is a member of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, where she has been also a coordinator for the EPP, continues Bruegel. The MEP also participated in the special committee of the Parliament devoted to the fight against terrorism, as well as in the delegation for relations with the USA. The MEP also took part in the European Parliament’s commission of inquiry into the Panama Papers.

According to Politico, Roberta Metsola is considered, within the Parliament, as one of the main MEPs focused on migration issues. She was notably the co-author of the Parliament’s report on Europe’s response to the refugee crisis, which effected her native Malta.

The candidacy of Roberta Metsola, mother of four, arouses controversy, because the MEP promotes conservative pro-life policy, fiercely opposing abortion. As French newspaper Liberation underlines, the elected official continues to disapprove of resolutions defending the right to abortion and contraception. Last September, Metsola also abstained during a vote calling on the European Commission to criminalise violence against women, points out French newspaper Le Monde.

In Malta, one of a few societies in Europe where abortion remains illegal in all circumstances. The candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament has however promised not to defend her openly anti-abortion positions at the head of the institution, notes Liberation. And as Euractiv media has underlined that, the EU has no competence in matters of abortion.

Malta is the only EU member state to strictly prohibit abortion entirely while Poland recently tightened the rules further shifting to conservative view by making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy even in cases of severe and irreversible fetal defects. Abortion is also illegal in Andorra and San Marino — although residents in the latter overwhelmingly backed a proposal to make abortion legal in a referendum over the weekend. Residents in Gibraltar similarly voted to ease abortion rules earlier this year. The European list is concluded by Lichtenstein and Monaco also have restrictive abortion rules.

Roberta Metsola “is consensual, except with the subject that makes us talk about her”, indicated a spokesperson for the Renew Europe (Liberals) parliamentary group with Elle magazine. As French newpaper Le Monde notes, the MP has regularly defended the rights of LGBTQ+ people. “As a woman, I know how important it is to have allies in your struggles. (…) Europe is a zone of freedom,” she said in December, Elle reports.

According to the Green MEP Manon Aubry, interviewed by the magazine, the Maltese candidate “has always defended a fairly strict sanitary cordon with the far right”. The elected also had more moderate positions than others, on the right, on the reception of refugees, recalls Le Monde. Metsola also called for the resignation of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in the wake of the death of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered in October 2017.

Maltese MEP Metsola ascends President’s seat

Strasbourg 24.11.2021 The European Parliament’s largest group the EPP on Wednesday, Nov.24, nominated Maltese MEP Robert Metsola as their candidate to lead the House.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) chose Metsola during a Wednesday night vote, putting her in a prime position to potentially replace incumbent President – Italian Socialist David Sassoli, when his term expires in January.

Metsola received 112 votes in the first round of the group’s internal election, while her competitors received much less: Dutch MEP Ester de Lange got 44 votes while 18 voted for Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, according to the EPP officials.

“I’m truly honored to have been given a strong mandate by the EPP group to be our family’s candidate for president of the European Parliament,” Metsola told reporters at a press conference alongside EPP leader Manfred Weber.

If elected, Metsola would be the first Maltese official to win one of the EU’s top jobs. But her victory on Wednesday only begins a campaign that promises to be heated.

Metsola is said to have the backing of political groups beyond the EPP, but she may still have to compete for the leadership post against Sassoli and a few other candidates from the Greens and European Conservatives and Reformists.

Malta: MEPs monitor investigation

Brussels 29.04.2021 In a resolution adopted on Thursday, April 29, with 635 votes for, 46 against and 12 abstentions, the European Parliament takes stock of developments in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia and other related investigations, following the testimony of convicted criminal Vincent Muscat.

Expressing deep concern about the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees in the murder case, MEPs urge the government to bring to justice all those implicated in all cases brought to light by the journalist. MEPs monitor investigation.

MEPs acknowledge the progress made in the murder investigation and other, related cases of corruption and money laundering, “albeit greatly delayed”, and call for the search to go beyond the previous prime minister’s chief of staff, including on possible attempts by public officials to conceal evidence and obstruct investigations and judicial proceedings. All allegations of corruption and fraud should be investigated and prosecuted “with the appropriate rigour and at the appropriate level”, they underline.

There are serious and persistent threats to EU values in the country, including media freedom, judicial and police independence, and the freedom of assembly, though MEPs note that the Government of Malta has made some progress in relation to the rule of law and judicial independence. The launch of the structural reform project is welcome, they say, given the ‘deep corruption patterns’ identified by the Commission in its 2020 Rule of Law Report. MEPs acknowledge the steps taken by the Maltese authorities to protect independent journalism, stressing that further improvements are needed, and calling on the Maltese authorities to implement the EU whistle-blower directive.

Parliament is deeply concerned about the harmful impact of citizenship and residence schemes on the integrity of EU citizenship, and reiterates its call on the Maltese government to assure transparency and terminate its schemes. It is also asking the Commission to propose anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation to protect independent European media from vexatious lawsuits intended to silence or intimidate them – a step that MEPs have been calling for since 2018.

Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered on 16 October 2017. She reported on government corruption, allegations of money laundering, and organised crime. Parliament launched the Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism in October 2020, on the third anniversary of her death, for “outstanding journalism reflecting EU values”.

Bring to justice all those implicated in cases brought to light by Daphne Caruana Galizia:
– Serious threats against EU values, though some progress being made
– Step up fight against fraud and corruption.

The latest revelations about the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia are of great concern, in particular the possible involvement of ministers and political appointees.

MEPs refuse “golden” passports scheme

Brussels 22.10.2020 EU citizenship cannot be traded as a commodity, according to a majority of speakers, who want to end the “golden passports” schemes currently in place in some member states.

In a plenary debate with Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders, MEPs stressed the inherent risks that these programmes give rise to, namely money laundering, tax evasion and corruption. They insisted that Europe must not have “a fast-track entrance for criminals”.

MEPs underlined that granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals without proper checks and transparency has negative consequences in other member states, eroding mutual trust and undermining common values.

Several speakers referred to the recent scandal in Cyprus, where high-ranking officials – including the Speaker of the national parliament – were secretly recorded offering to assist a fictional Chinese executive with a criminal record in getting a Cypriot passport through the national “citizenship by investment” scheme. They also acknowledge the Commission’s decision to open infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta, though some complained that it has taken too long to act.

Some MEPs noted that the share of revenues from these programmes is significant for countries such as Cyprus, whilst many argued that EU values and rights should not be for sale.

Cyprus, Malta, and Bulgaria are the three EU countries where it is possible to get citizenship in exchange for an investment, the so-called “golden passports”. As many as 19 EU countries operate “residence by investment” programmes, known as “golden visas”.

In January 2019, the European Commission established a group of experts with representatives from all EU member states to develop common standards and guidelines in this area. After four meetings last year, the group has so far not met in 2020.

Cyprus and Malta risk EU lawsuits

20.10.2020 Today, the European Commission is launching infringement procedures against Cyprus and Malta by issuing letters of formal notice regarding their investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes.

The Commission considers that the granting by these Member States of their nationality – and thereby EU citizenship – in exchange for a pre-determined payment or investment and without a genuine link with the Member States concerned, is not compatible with the principle of sincere cooperation enshrined in Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. This also undermines the integrity of the status of EU citizenship provided for in Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Due to the nature of EU citizenship, such schemes have implications for the Union as a whole. When a Member State awards nationality, the person concerned automatically becomes an EU citizen and enjoys all rights linked to this status, such as the right to move, reside and work freely within the EU, or the right to vote in municipal elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. As a consequence, the effects of investor citizenship schemes are neither limited to the Member States operating them, nor are they neutral with regard to other Member States and the EU as a whole.

The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship for pre-determined payments or investments without any genuine link with the Member States concerned, undermines the essence of EU citizenship.

The Cypriot and Maltese governments have two months to reply to the letters of formal notice. If the replies are not satisfactory, the Commission may issue a Reasoned Opinion in this matter.

Investor citizenship schemes allow a person to acquire a new nationality based on payment or investment alone. These schemes are different to investor residence schemes (or “golden visas”), which allow third-country nationals, subject to certain conditions, to obtain a residence permit to live in an EU country.

The conditions for obtaining and forfeiting national citizenship are regulated by the national law of each Member State, subject to due respect for EU law. As nationality of a Member State is the only precondition for EU citizenship and access to rights conferred by the Treaties, the Commission has been closely monitoring investor schemes granting the nationality of Member States.

The Commission has frequently raised its serious concerns about investor citizenship schemes and certain risks that are inherent in such schemes. As mentioned in the Commission’s report of January 2019, those risks relate in particular to security, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption and the Commission has been monitoring wider issues of compliance with EU law raised by investor citizenship and residence schemes. In April 2020, the Commission wrote to the Member States concerned setting out its concerns and asking for further information about the schemes.

In a resolution adopted on 10 July 2020, the European Parliament reiterated its earlier calls on Member States to phase out all existing citizenship by investment (CBI) or residency by investment (RBI) schemes as soon as possible. As stated by President von der Leyen in the State of the Union Address of 16 September 2020, European values are not for sale.

The Commission is also writing again to Bulgaria to highlight its concerns regarding an investor citizenship scheme operated by that Member State and requesting further details. The Bulgarian government has one month to reply to the letter requesting further information, following which the Commission will decide on the next steps.

Daphne Caruana Galizia PRIZE

Brussels 19.10.2020 The European Parliament has launched Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism on anniversary of her murder commemorating the third time the assassination of the Maltese investigative journalist, the prize will reward journalism reflecting EU principles and values.

The purpose of the prize is to distinguish outstanding journalism that reflects the European Union’s principles and values, as enshrined in the European Charter of Human Rights. The European Parliament considers that protecting press freedom around the world, and particularly that of investigative journalists whilst exercising their duties, is in the vital interest of democratic societies.

Even though the prize is initiated and supported by Parliament, it will be managed by an independent EU-based media partner in order to protect the independence of the prize and the work of the media.

The European Parliament will soon begin selecting an independent organisation to establish the detailed criteria for awarding the prize and decide on who will sit on the jury. A call for tender to select such an organisation will be launched before the end of 2020.

The call for nominees for the prize will be launched around 03 May 2021 – World Press Freedom Day. The annual award ceremony will take each year around the anniversary of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was a Maltese anti-corruption investigative journalist and blogger who was killed in a car bomb attack on 16 October 2017. She focused on investigative journalism, reporting on government corruption, allegations of money laundering and organised crime.

The launch took place online on Friday 16 October on the EP’s Facebook page. It was led by the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala (Greens, FI), and MEP David Casa (EPP, MT). They were joined online by the murdered journalist’s son, Andrew Caruana Galizia, from Malta.

Malta Airport may open June 15

Malta airport could reopen on 15 June but decision still depends on agreement granted by the health authorities the Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli indicated.

Farrugia Portelli said the Prime Minister will be announcing an official date for reopening the airport in the coming days.

The target date has been set earlier, and all stakeholders agreed that a confirmation is needed as soon as possible, she continued.

“We have always said the airport should be closed until 15 June but we will continue assessing this with the health authorities,” she said on TVM’s Xtra on May 28 night programme, pointing to the government intention of mid-June reopening.

Farrugia Portelli underlined that there will be a summer vacation possible for the guests of the archipelago country.

“It will be a safer summer than ever before,” she said, adding that safety protocols will be introduced once the airport reopens.

Tourism operators have been waiting for the reopening of the airport and lifting of travel restrictions to encourage tourism, contributing to about 15% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). All travel came to standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic reached Malta in March.

Malta medical experts have established 616 cases, 501 patients received treatment and recovered, but still 108 cases remain active. Seven from COVID-19 infections resulted in related deaths.

Malta ambassador resigns after verbal assault

Malta’s Ambassador to Finland has resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler in a public message in the context of Europe remembering the end of World War II.

Malta government ensured that the official apology will be send to Berlin.
The Maltese high diplomat to Finland resigned after comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler.

Michael Zammit Tabona’s anti-Merkel Facebook entry, posted on May 8, which was removed later.

The Foreign affairs minister Evarist Bartolo informed he had accepted the resignation of the Maltese businessman appointed as Malta’s ambassador to Helsinki in 2014.

In his message on Friday, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe, Zammit Tabona had posted: “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe.”
Maltese media reported May 10 that the offending post had since been deleted, and that Zammit Tabona could not be contacted for comment.

The Times of Malta newspaper said Zammit Tabona’s posting had been as non-residential and quoted Bartolo as saying he had instructed the ambassador to remove the comment “as soon as I was alerted to it.
The newspaper also quoted Maltese opposition leader Adrian Delia as saying that Zammit Tabona’s Facebook post was “unbecoming of an ambassador.”

Delia told the newspaper Angela Merkel had consistently backed Malta on various issues, describing her as a source of stability in Europe — seven decades after the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Malta’s Chamber of Commerce, in a statement also carried by the newspaper, said Zammit Tabona’s remark had harmed the country’s reputation. It welcomed his resignation.
All persons holding public office and diplomats no less, should take extra care when expressing themselves, as the country’s reputation is no one’s to put in compromising situations,” the chamber reportedly said.

Relations between the two EU nations, Malta and Germany, are becoming increasingly complex over Mediterranean migrant flows and Eurozone debt.

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