EU Commission says reforms carried out have strengthened the independence of the Judiciary in Malta
In its second report on the Rule of Law in EU Member Countries, the European Commission said that reforms carried out last year, in particularly Malta’s appointments to the Judiciary as well as Judiciary Discipline have led to the strengthening of the independence of Malta’s Judiciary system.
In its report on Malta, the EU Commission said perceptions regarding the independence of the Judiciary has improved in a notable manner and is now of a high level.
It said the Maltese Government has taken place that politicians are no longer involved in the appointment of the Chief Judge while highlighting that certain aspects of the procedure have to be taken carefully.
The Commission’s analysts also noted the progress made that prosecutions are made by the Advocate General and no longer the Police. It said that discussions are also ongoing to strengthen the independence of specialised tribunals. However, there are still challenges concerning delays in the system, the limited impact of Judicial Officials and the digitalization of Maltese Courts.
The Report also mentions the Government has approved a strategy with a number of aims to fight against corruption and fraud. While prosecutions and investigative entities have increased their capacity to fight cases of corruption, as shown by the number of cases presented, it noted that investigations are still taking time according to their complexity while the track record of high profile persons has yet to be established.
Regarding the appointment of a new Police Commissioner and of the Commissioner for the Permanent Commission Against Corruption, as well as the cooperation between the Police and the Attorney General are relatively new and it as yet early to reach an evaluation.
The EU Commission also noted that during the pandemic, steps were taken to reduce the risks of corruption in public purchases.
It was further noted that the Public Inquiry on the homicide of Daphne Caruana Galizia was concluded on 15th July and there were developments in criminal procedures connected to this case.
The Report also noted that journalists are finding it difficult to obtain information from public authorities and related that during the pandemic year the Government launched a scheme to help Maltese media make good a lack of advertising.
Regarding legal amendments for the Broadcasting Authority, the Commission said these are not bringing changes to strengthen the independence of the Authority. The Report made references to a case before the Courts that the two political party stations be closed down.
The Report also made reference to other reforms aimed at strengthening the Rule of Law in Malta, including the appointment of persons to high places. Also noted was the strengthening of the Office of the Ombudsman although it noted the inconsistence of the implementation of its recommendations.
Regarding the role of civil society in Malta, the Commission said although these have continued to have an active part in the political debate, there are certain concerns regarding their access to funds and actions by the Commissioner for NGOs.