Prime Minister Joseph Muscat met with a European Parliament delegation on Friday morning, with his chief of staff Keith Schembri and Justice Minister Owen Bonnici sitting by his side.
Mr Schembri's presence at the Castille meeting comes following intense pressure for him to meet with the MEP delegation and answer their questions, with European parliamentarians reportedly keen to quiz him about his Panama Papers links as well as reports by the government’s anti-money laundering agency.
A spokesman at the Office of the Prime Minister told Times of Malta that Dr Muscat, Dr Bonnici and Mr Schembri were there to answer any questions MEPs might have.
The MEP delegation's original schedule had listed three separate meetings with Dr Muscat, Dr Bonnici and Mr Schembri.
The delegation is in Malta to assess concerns raised at a European level about the rule of law in the country, with the two-day visit drawing to a close later on Friday.
The press was invited for the first few minutes of the meeting. Dr Muscat opened it by expressing regret that the delegation came after an EP debate and resolution vote about the rule of law in the country.
With many MEPs having drawn conclusions about the country before seeing the situation for themselves, he said, the usefulness of the delegation was "questionable," he told them, adding that it was "never too late" to rectify.
The criticism related to a debate the European Parliament held last month in which MEPs from all political groupings hammered Malta with criticism before going on to vote for a resolution urging the Commission to open talks with Malta about the rule of law in the country.
Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans, who has told the Maltese government that "the eyes of Europe" were watching the country closely, closed that debate by telling MEPs not to rush to judgment and to allow an investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia's murder to "run its full course."
Dr Muscat on Friday morning told the delegation, which is being led by Socialist MEP Ana Gomes, that he had read "every word" of a Pana Committee report released last month.
The report found, among other things, that Malta's anti-money laundering institutions and media landscape were "highly politicised."
The delegation on Thursday held back-to-back meetings with police commissioner Lawrence Cutajar, Attorney General Peter Grech, Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit representatives, journalists and members of civil society.
They met with Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri on Friday morning and will meet with representatives of Malta's financial regulator, the MFSA, later before holding a press conference to discuss their findings in the afternoon.
'Very partial representation' - Muscat
Muscat had no qualms about criticising the MEPs' choice of meetings, saying he was "astonished" at their decision to meet a "very partial representation of public opinion", given that MEPs had themselves previously remarked on Malta's politicised landscape.
He told the delegation that he would have liked to share what information he could about the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation, "but we have to note a letter which the family sent to the Minister for Home Affairs, cautioning him not to disclose any information in Parliament, and threatening him with criminal actions."
Dr Muscat then listed various measures his administration had taken to strengthen political accountability, from a Whistleblower Act to the removal of time-barring in political corruption cases, party financing laws and anti-censorship laws.
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