Malta has not made any significant progress in the fight against corruption, the European Commission said on Thursday.
During a presentation about the Malta 2019 country report, European Commission Deputy Secretary General Céline Gauer said more work needed to be done for the strengthening of governance frameworks and the enforcement of anti-money laundering measures.
Ms Gauer did note that there had been significant improvements in the staffing levels of supervisory authorities in the financial sector.
She said Malta had made limited progress in general when it came to implementing the 2018 country-specific recommendations.
Another Commission official, Benjamin Angel, observed that Malta had tumbled down Transparency International’s corruption perception index in recent years.
He said no prosecutions had ever resulted from the 500 files passed on to Malta’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Permanent Commission Against Corruption.
While commending Malta for its high rate of economic growth, Mr Angel said effective governance was key to successful and lasting growth models.
Scicluna: Malta will show it is serious in tackling shortcomings
Finance Minister Edward Scicluna defended Malta’s efforts on the anti-money laundering and corruption fronts.
He said the government would show it was serious in tackling shortcomings in Malta anti-money laundering framework.
He pointed towards the adoption of a 50-point plan to fight money-laundering.
The finance minister also said a lot of the focus on Malta was politically motivated.
He said MEPs had requested the European Banking Authority to focus on Malta at a time when numerous European banks are facing accusations of laundering billions.
Ms Gauer rebutted that the EBA’s recommendations about Malta were objective and factual. She strongly objected to the characterisation of its work as being political.
On the economic front, the Finance Minister acknowledged that Malta’s recent economic growth had not been uniform, with certain sectors and pockets of society lagging behind.
He said the government had been very careful not to raise the minimum wage higher than those of Malta’s competitors.
The finance minister said the government was supplementing the income of those in need through an “enormous amount of benefits” such as free childcare and free medicine.
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