Monday

8th Mar 2021

Pressure mounts to grill Malta's Muscat at EU summit

  • Malta's embassy in Brussels - 200 metres from the summit - plastered with pictures of PM Joseph Muscat captioned 'murderers' (Photo: EUobserver)

Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat's presence at the EU summit in Brussels is sharpening demands that other leaders discuss the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Several close aides to Muscat have been implicated in the crime, which saw the campaigning anti-corruption journalist blown up by car bomb in October 2017. Muscat has promised to resign in January, but oversee the investigation first.

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"I hope that he [Muscat] puts the issue on the table himself - the news we get from Malta is dramatic," Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte told reporters ahead of the gathering on Thursday (12 December).

"If he doesn't put the issue on the table, I will ask it to him myself," he warned, noting that heads of state and government from across the Union are present.

Similar comments were made by German Green MEP Sven Giegold, who said the EU summit should not remain silent about the rule of law in Malta.

"European governments must not turn a blind eye to the culture of impunity for corruption and financial crime in Malta," he said, in a statement.

Giegold along with a handful of other MEPs had last week gone on a fact-finding mission to Malta, where "they found serious shortcomings and threats to the rule of law."

However, an EU source told EUobserver that "It [Malta] is not on the agenda."

A letter from the European Parliament's civil liberties committee earlier in the day had also criticised Muscat for delaying his resignation until mid-January.

"We fear this constitutes a serious risk, real or perceived the murder investigation and connected investigations will be compromised," it notes.

Sent to the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, the letter demands EU summit leaders take a stand.

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, had sent the letter on behalf of the committee.

But when asked if Muscat should step down, he said no.

"There is a judiciary that is doing its job and drawing its conclusions," Sassoli told EUobserver, citing the respect for procedures and institutional responsibilities.

Rival parties from the socialist president took a different and more aggressive position.

"We think the prime minister should immediately resign," said Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-right European People's Party.

"For us, it is a huge scandal that the prime minister is still in office," he added, highlighting the political links between Galizia's murder and Muscat's inner circle.

Weber said he fully supported the protesters that had gathered in front of Malta's embassy to the European Union.

Some had plastered incriminating posters of Muscat, describing him as a murderer, on the embassy walls. The embassy is around 200 metres from the EU summit building.

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