Malta’s implementation of ‘limited’ anti-corruption reform

Malta’s efforts to introduce anti-corruption reforms in response to the Daphne Caruana Galizia public inquiry have been “limited”. European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen said Malta weather.

In an email interview, Von Der Leyen said that when it comes to corruption, there has been “little or no follow-up” to the recommendations of the commission of inquiry.

“It is important that the Maltese authorities ensure the necessary follow-up to these recommendations.”

Recommendations included banning “mafia-like associations” and regulating contact between politicians and big business.

A Nationalist Party bill to implement the anti-corruption recommendations was rejected by the government last year. The opposition has since sought to revive the bill.

Von Der Leyen acknowledged that on some of the other recommendations of the inquiry, the government has proposed reforms.

In January, the government appointed a group of experts to propose reforms to media laws.

While declining to comment on ongoing legal proceedings, Von Der Leyen stressed how crucial it is that those responsible for the journalist’s murder be brought to justice.

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The decision to include the Malta-Sicily gas pipeline project in a list of projects eligible for EU funding met with strong resistance last year over fears that Yorgen Fenech, the man suspected of orchestrating the murder of Caruana Galizia cannot benefit financially from the agreement.

Von Der Leyen said that while EU funding has been provided for preparatory studies for the Melita project, no funding has yet been provided for construction.

“The eligibility of the project for EU support and the actual financing of a project are two different procedures, carried out separately.”

Von Der Leyen said the Commission will ensure that any request for funding for the project fully complies with EU financial rules, which exclude granting funding to persons or entities who have been convicted of a crime.

She said the Malta-Italy pipeline will replace the temporary floating LNG terminal currently used for importing gas.

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The terminal is operated by Electrogas, the company that won the contract to build and operate the gas-fired power station.

Last year, former government officials Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi were banned from traveling to the United States because of their “involvement in significant corruption” over the Electrogas contract.

Although the pipeline will initially pump natural gas, a fossil fuel, to Malta, Energy Minister Miriam Dalli has assured that the pipeline will be “hydrogen ready”.

Von Der Leyen welcomed the fact that Malta is still exploring ways to prepare the pipeline to channel hydrogen.

She acknowledged that hydrogen supply is a key consideration, therefore project preparation will need to be accompanied by an assessment of supply and demand for renewable or low-carbon hydrogen, to ensure make sure it’s viable.

The European Commission president said the EU is investing in renewables “like never before”, with a €300 billion plan to back it up.

Azerbaijan calls

The European Commission has been heavily criticized for siding with Azerbaijan in a bid to wean Europe off Russian gas imports.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has long been associated with corruption and human rights abuses.

Von Der Leyen evaded such concerns when interviewed by Times of Malta, insisting that Azerbaijan is an important energy partner for the EU, with energy cooperation intensifying.

Von der Leyen with Azerbaijani Ilhan Aliyev last month. Photo: AFP

She said the energy memorandum of understanding will double the country’s gas deliveries to Europe and lay the foundation for a long-term partnership on energy efficiency and clean energy.

Meanwhile, Von Der Leyen said the EU was negotiating a new comprehensive cooperation and partnership agreement with Azerbaijan, with political dialogue on respect for human rights and the rule of law being at the heart of the relationship. .

“This new partnership agreement will also support Azerbaijan’s efforts to diversify its economy and create an environment conducive to business and foreign investment.

“It is important to create the right conditions for investor confidence. This includes greater involvement of civil society and free and independent media.

These passport sales

The President of the European Commission has long criticized the sale of EU passports to wealthy foreigners, with Malta in Von Der Leyen’s crosshairs.

According to a Commission report, passport sales schemes such as the one set up by Malta pose risks of money laundering, tax evasion and organized crime for the whole of the EU.

Von Der Leyen clarified that the Commission’s position against such regimes remains unchanged.

“Let me be very clear: European values ​​are not for sale. This is why the Commission is determined to act on investor citizenship schemes,” Von Der Leyen said of these schemes.

She said she welcomed the suspension of the passport program for Russian and Belarusian citizens, calling it a “positive first step”.

“However, the scheme continues to operate for all other nationals and Malta has expressed no intention of stopping the scheme.

“Our infringement case is ongoing. We are finalizing our assessment of the response we have received from the government and will then decide on the next step.

The government insists it carries out strict due diligence checks on all passport applicants.

He has so far refused the Commission’s demands to halt the scheme, insisting that it is for Malta, not Brussels, to decide.

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