Malta: MEPs call for Prime Minister Muscat to resign
The Maltese government has been urged to quit over its “failure to properly investigate allegations of money-laundering.”
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
The demand, by Parliament’s Greens/EFA group, comes after the recent murder of the Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The Strasbourg plenary session on Monday started with members holding a minute’s silence in memory of the respected journalist.
On Tuesday, Parliament held a debate about beefing up protection for journalists such as Caruana Galizia, who was noted for her work on the Panama Papers and corruption, including in Malta.
Some of the allegations made by Caruana Galizia implicated senior Maltese political figures, including Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He has pledged a full investigation into the murder of the journalist, who was blown up in a car bomb.
His critics say Muscat faces some tough questions to answer about the political environment in Malta after the murder of the journalist.
Greens MEPs Sven Giegold and Eva Joly have now called on Muscat’s government to quit for “failing to take serious action against high level cases of money laundering.”
On Tuesday, they said, “The murderous attack on Daphne Caruana Galizia was an attack on European values. The murder must be fully and independently investigated.
“Honouring her work should mean an investigation into her revelations that is as thorough as her murder was brutal and shocking.”
The MEPs added that they support the demand of Caruana Galizia’s family for the Maltese government to step down, adding that “a European government cannot leave any doubt as to the rule of law.”
They said, “The Maltese government has failed to take serious action against high-level cases of money laundering in its country. In fact, the way in which the Maltese government has dealt with money laundering is at odds with our common understanding of democracy. There is a culture of impunity and fiddling between political and financial elites rules in Malta.
“The Maltese law enforcement authorities have failed to take any serious consequences of the findings of its own anti-money laundering authority (FIAU). Since the elections, little has been heard about the investigations into high-level cases of corruption and money laundering. Key staff of the FIAU have lost their jobs or stepped down.”
The MEPs said that a whistle-blower in the Maltese Panama Papers revelations had felt obliged to flee the country while some national investigators have conflicts of interest.
The deputies went on, “In order to restore trust in the rule of law, we demand an international investigator be appointed whose rigor is without doubt and who will be fully involved in the investigations.
“When rule of law is at stake, Europe must act. We demand a serious investigation by the European Commission. We welcome that the Commission has used the questions to investigate further.
We deplore that the Commission did not answer all our questions and we consider that the launch of infringement procedures should be more seriously considered.
“The fight of journalists and whistle-blowers to make business more transparent is essential, but also terribly dangerous, even within the EU.”
It is for this reason, they said, that they have proposed the idea of a European prize for investigative journalism in the name of Caruana Galizia and modelled on the Sakharov Prize.
Giegold said, “The EU cannot defend freedom of the press internationally when, within it, journalists are intimidated or, worse, murdered.”
Meanwhile, at the start of Monday’s plenary, Parliament President Antonio Tajani, himself a former journalist, paid tribute to the Maltese reporter, saying, “As a citizen and as a journalist, I should like to express my sense of outrage at the brutal murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia.
“She was a brave woman, and a fine journalist. She epitomised everything that is good about the profession: she sought out the truth, the facts, and refused to let anyone stand in her way. She was not afraid to do whatever it took to fulfil what she saw as her duty.”
The Italian EPP group member said, “In 30 years as a journalist, she never lost heart. She continued to shine a light in dark places, to speak the truth, answering only to her readers, the only people to whom she felt accountable. Drawing on that inner strength, she published more than 20,000 articles denouncing abuses of power, corruption and the failings of governments.”
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