Europe’s Commissioner-designate for rule of law issues on Monday told MEPs that she would be keeping her promise to “look very closely” at the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder.

Vera Jourova told MEPs “I met Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family, I gave a promise to her mother that I will look very closely at the investigations. I made a promise to her son to do my best to protect journalists in Europe. These promises are very strong commitments. I am happy to do more to keep these promises.”

She was replying to a question by Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola.

Vera Jourova answers Roberta Metsola's questions on Monday.

Focus on the investigation into Ms Caruana Galizia's murder intensified this weekend after The Sunday Times of Malta reported that a major businessman was among the suspects investigators had identified.

In a separate statement, the Nationalist Party said Joseph Muscat's Labour government was dragging its feet on the matter and avoiding uncomfortable questions raised by Council of Europe rapporteur Peter Omtzigt.

Vera Jourova's new portfolio

Ms Jourova, who is currently the EU’s Justice Commissioner, has been selected by incoming Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to serve as Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency.

If she is approved for that role, Ms Jourova will be the Commissioner responsible for rule of law issues across member states.

The European Commission has limited influence over such matters, although it is now seeking to extend its powers by introducing a regular rule of law reporting mechanism. To counter criticism that it has made an example of some countries while ignoring others, Ms Jourova has said that she wants a “wide assessment” of rule of law issues across the EU.

During her hearing before MEPs on Monday, Ms Jourova said rule of law matters “require more care” than was afforded to them during the Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker.

Ms Jourova said that she was willing to consider offering legal aid to journalists who face abusive lawsuits, noting that rule of law and media freedom were “connected” to one another.

'Time to ban cash-for-passports schemes'

The Commissioner-designate also had some tough words for Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme, which she has spoken out against in the past. 

“I agree that it is time to ban these schemes,” Ms Jourova said. “Unfortunately we do not have the legal competence to do that. What we can do is pass legislation to make things more transparent.”