Prime Minister Robert Abela on Thursday pledged to implement without delay the recommendations made by the Venice Commission.

However, he first wants to engage in discussions with the Council of Europe’s rule of law experts about their implementation.

Dr Abela said the government agreed with all the principles behind the recommendations.

“There are methods to implement what was recommended so we will engage in discussions to see how to best implement these recommendations. A number of recommendations have already been implemented and I am committed to continue with the rest. I will not prolong, and we will make the necessary changes in the coming days and weeks,” Dr Abela told Times of Malta.

In 2018, the Venice Commission said that Malta needed better checks and balances to ensure proper rule of law on the island. It had described the Office of the Prime Minister as being at “the centre of power” and institutions too weak to provide sufficient checks and balances.

The Venice Commission provides legal advice to member states to help bring their legal and institutional structures in line with European standards.

Former prime minister Joseph Muscat had previously committed to implement the changes being proposed but did not provide any timeline.

Meanwhile, at the end of a courtesy call on Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Dr Abela said he had given instructions for the makeshift memorial to Daphne Caruana Galizia not to be cleared following last night’s vigil, held on the 16th of every month. 

His announcement marks a departure from the actions of the Joseph Muscat government, which has been taken to court for breaching the right to freedom of expression after pictures of the murdered journalist, as well as candles and flowers, were repeatedly removed by government workers from the foot of the Great Siege Monument, opposite the law courts in Valletta.

The prime minister’s meeting with the archbishop, at Dar tal-Kleru in Birkirkara, came a day after Dr Abela said in a televised interview that he did not see a need for change to Article II of the Malta constitution, regarding religion, more so because Malta is a tolerant nation.

Article II says that: “The religion of Malta is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion. The authorities of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church have the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong.”

It also says that “Religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Faith shall be provided in all State schools as part of compulsory education.”

Dr Abela on Wednesday also declared his opposition to the introduction of abortion, warning that if former prime minister Joseph Muscat proposed it, he would oppose him.

The Sunday Times of Malta reported that Dr Muscat intends to work for stronger civil rights and wants to start a debate on the possible introduction of abortion.

The Church and State have worked closely on various projects in the past few years, notably in the provision of residential care for elderly people and the setting up of a new hospice centre which is managed by Hospice Malta. The government also covers the salaries of teachers in Church schools according to an agreement going back to the 1980s. 

Dr Abela was accompanied on his visit by Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis, who until the Cabinet reshuffle was responsible for care of the elderly.

Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi was also present.

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