MEPs sitting on the rule of law monitoring group arrive on Wednesday, just days after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warned Brussels would get tough on countries not observing democratic principles.
The visiting MEPs are known to have asked for meetings with the Attorney General, the Police Commissioner and the Chief Justice, among others. They will also meet journalists and civil society members.
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, who will form part of the delegation, said the latest visit by European parliamentarians was an escalation on previous missions.
This trip to Malta was deemed necessary because, despite the calls the MEPs made, there were still real concerns on whether the government was fully meeting its obligations under EU law.
This was being seen particularly in light of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s car bomb murder and the seemingly “sluggish” progress of the investigation into who ordered and paid for her death, Dr Metsola said.
MEP Sven Giegold said in a statement the delegation was still awaiting confirmation from the Police Commissioner, the Justice Minister and several others they wanted to question on the involvement of high-ranking government officials mentioned in the Panama Papers and the failure to prosecute them.
In his latest state of the union speech on Wednesday in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker said the Commission should take the necessary action when the rule of law was threatened. “We continue to be very concerned by the developments in some of our member states,” he said.
His comments were mainly seen as a warning to Hungary and Poland. The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to punish Hungary over alleged breaches of the EU’s core democratic principles.
Labour MEP Alfred Sant declined to participate in the vote, citing the politicised manner by which the European Parliament investigated governance issues. Similar investigations on Malta were crassly biased, he said in a statement.
A report released in January by MEPs called on Maltese politicians perceived to be implicated in serious acts of corruption and money laundering linked to the Panama Papers and reports drawn up by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit to be removed from public office and swiftly investigated.
The report said keeping such politicians in office affected the credibility of the government, fuelled a perception of impunity and could result in further damage to State interests by enabling the continuation of criminal activity.
In reply, the government said that after considering the FIAU reports, the police concluded there was simply not enough evidence to launch a full criminal investigation against the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Keith Schembri, and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi.
Both had been found in the Panama Papers to have secretly opened identical structures in Panama.
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