Malta went through "some difficulties" in the last few years where good governance was concerned, but it has "learnt a lot," Robert Abela told the European Commissioner for justice on Thursday.

The prime minister made his remark as he welcomed commissioner Didier Reynders at the Auberge de Castille and briefed him about rule of law and good governance reforms made since 2020.

Media was invited for the first 20 minutes of the meeting.


Abela said that Malta’s greylisting by the Financial Action Task Force was a “rough patch” but the country’s quick exit from the list showed that the government took rule of law reforms seriously.

The global anti-money laundering watchdog added Malta to its grey list in June 2021 after deciding the country was not doing enough to combat financial crime but took the country off the list a year later. 

Abela spoke about how the country had changed the way it appoints the police commissioner, the chief justice and the judiciary, following recommendations by the Venice Commission. 

He said the government was also working to reduce court delays by proposing to introduce a one-year limit in the compilation of evidence stage of criminal cases.

But a culture shift in the courts was also needed, particularly in the way the parties and lawyers behaved during the litigation process and the way the judiciary manages cases before it.

The prime minister said he also looked forward to “game-changing” legislation protecting journalists. A new law was meant to be enacted months ago but is still being discussed. 

In October government proposals faced pushback from journalists and media analysts, who demanded that the plans be opened to public consultation, something Abela reluctantly accepted.

Law on abortion

Abela also briefly referred to the pending law on abortion, saying a change was needed because currently, the termination of a pregnancy was illegal even on medical grounds.  

“We felt the need following the case of Ms (Andrea) Prudente to introduce this particular amendment”.

Abela said that an increase in police resources has led to a decrease in organised and financial crime. 

“We mean business in tackling organised and financial crime,” he said.

Media were not present for the commissioner's reply but he is due to have a meeting with the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee in the afternoon.

In a tweet later, Nationalist MP David Casa told the Commissioner that Abela failed to tell him about his links to organised crime, and how he continued to compromise Malta's institutions "to undermine justice and perpetuate impunity". 

"He is a living, breathing impediment to the rule of law in Malta," Casa said.

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