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David Casa MEP calls for European Council intervention to defend #RuleOfLaw in #Malta

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David Casa MEP
European Parliament Quaestor David Casa (pictured) has called on the European Council President to “intervene to help safeguard Malta’s democracy and to ensure the respect of the values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty in Malta and in particular, justice and the rule of law”.

In a letter sent today (25 November), Casa stated: “Malta has been gripped by crisis from the moment the late Daphne Caruana Galizia reported on the Panama Papers. It was a scandal that exposed corporate structures reeking of money laundering and connected to secretive deals with Azerbaijan. Those involved were Prime Minister Muscat’s closest political allies.

"Keith Schembri is still his chief of staff, and Konrad Mizzi, is still a cabinet minister. He held portfolios from Health to Energy and now Tourism.

"Joseph Muscat defended them through the Panama Papers, through revelation after revelation, as the web of corruption continued to be exposed. Daphne Caruana Galizia was considered to be Joseph Muscat’s most vociferous critic, but when she was assassinated by a car bomb on the 16th October 2017, not a shred of political responsibility was shouldered.

"The situation today is degenerating into unprecedented desperation.

"The arrest of Yorgen Fenech was supposed to bring us closer to justice, but Muscat’s interference poses a nauseating predicament that is rapidly further eroding trust in the institutions of the State. Yorgen Fenech, the chief murder suspect and owner of a Dubai company linked to Schembri and Mizzi’s Panamanian companies, was arrested trying to flee Malta on his luxury yacht.

"Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri are implicated in serious crimes. With each passing day it is becoming all the more clear that Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered so as to prevent her from exposing these very same crimes.

"Joseph Muscat’s incessant protection of Schembri and Mizzi to this day has inevitably rendered him complicit in their actions.

"To add insult to injury, members of Muscat’s cabinet are being questioned by the police in relation to the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Instead of resigning, Muscat has increased his role in this investigation.

"While the police commissioner is refusing to comment, the prime minister is informing the public on the progress of a murder investigation that could implicate members of his cabinet and connects the chief murder suspect to Keith Schembri and Konrad Mizzi.

"Joseph Muscat also has the power to recommend presidential pardons. He has already given assurances that he will recommend such a pardon to the middleman involved in setting up the assassination. Now Yorgen Fenech has also asked for a pardon. How can the prime minister decide on such matters when his political fate is intrinsically tied to those that Yorgen Fenech could expose? Given his glaringly obvious interest in the case, it is nothing short of obvious that Muscat should step aside and allow the investigation to carry on independently of undue pressure.

"The prime minister wields domineering influence on supposedly independent institutions giving him effective control. The fact that he has attached himself so forcefully to the murder investigation is seriously undermining Malta’s democratic credentials.

"Prime Minister Joseph Muscat alone is responsible for the constitutional crisis in which Malta is trapped. His resignation is imperative. The Prime Minister no longer holds the moral or political authority to represent our nation as a European country with democratic credentials.

"I am therefore calling upon you, as President of the European Council, to intervene to help safeguard Malta’s democracy and to ensure the respect of the values listed in Article 2 of the Treaty in Malta and in particular, justice and the rule of law.”

Africa

Senior MEP calls on Parliament to 'restore calm' in Guinea after elections

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A senior MEP has called on the EU to press Guinea to “restore calm” after the weekend presidential elections left the trouble-torn African country in further turmoil.

Official results will not be known for several days and the local media have been banned from publishing exit poll results. But it is widely rumoured that the main opposition candidate, Cello Dalein Diallo, beat the sitting president Alpha Conde by over 50%.

There are now fears of unrest with Diallo suggesting the incumbent may “cheat” and dispute the outcome of Sunday’s (18 October) election in a bid to stay in power.

Diallo is apparently in hiding following rumours that he might be arrested.

Belgian Socialist Maria Arena, chairwoman of the European Parliament’s sub committee on human rights, told this website: “It seems important to me that the European Union, namely the external action service but also the member states, use political and diplomatic dialogue to try to restore calm in Guinea.”

On Monday (19 October), speaking exclusively to this website, Diallo said: “I am convinced from the results obtained that I won this election despite fraud and intimidation. I appeal to officials, territorial administrators and members of the branches of the CENI (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante) to ensure that all compatriots observe and respect the electoral code and other laws and good practices so that our country does not sink into violence.”

He added: “We don't need it. But, the risk is that if Alpha Condé wants at all costs, and whatever the results of the ballot box, to proclaim itself the winner. Let him understand that we will not accept.”

Diallo went on, “I now ask the international community to take its responsibilities to save Guinea from drift.”

In the vote, which followed months of political unrest where dozens of people were killed during security crackdowns on mass protests, 82-year-old Conde sought a controversial third term.

Diallo told reporters, “Alpha Conde cannot abandon his desire to grant himself a presidency for life.” He warned his rival not take power using “cunning and violence”.

Diallo said that in the election observers had encountered obstructions at polling stations while Guinea’s Prime Minister Ibrahima Kassory Fofana admitted there had been “incidents.”

Ten other candidates besides Conde and Diallo contested the poll and, if necessary, a second-round runoff vote is scheduled for November 24.

Much of the tension in Guinea relates to a new constitution Conde pushed through in March, in defiance of mass protests, arguing that it would modernise the country.

The move controversially allowed him to bypass a two-term limit for presidential terms. Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010 and won again in 2015 but rights groups now accuse him of veering towards authoritarianism.

Maria Arena, also a member of the Parliament’s influential conference of committee chairs and foreign affairs committee, noted that an emergency resolution had been voted by the assembly in February condemning Condé's desire to change the constitution by referendum to allow him to exercise a third term.

She said: “In this resolution, the European Parliament had already pointed out human rights violations and urged the government to organize transparent, pluralist and inclusive elections.

"But Condé, who called himself the president of democracy (“the Mandela of West Africa”) changed his ways and took the path of repression by locking up opponents.”

Turning to the current post-election period, she said: “We must avoid repeating the scenes of violence of 2009.”

She added: “Unfortunately the covid pandemic did not allow the EU to deploy an election observation mission. This is damaging for Guinea.

“Guinea, like the other African countries, has signed the Cotonou Agreement, which is still applicable and this agreement provides for sanctions mechanisms in the event of non-respect for good governance and democracy. The European Council will also be able to use this tool if the elections lead to a failure to respect these principles and if the Guinean population is a victim.”

Further comment comes from foreign affairs committee chairman German MEP David McAllister who told this website he did not want a repeat of the violence seen during the legislative elections and a constitutional referendum in March which he said “was deeply shocking”.

“The EU has rightly called on the authorities to carry out independent and thorough investigations so that those responsible can be prosecuted.

“The presidential election on  Sunday was included amongst the 2020 priorities for an EU-Election Expert Mission but the political situation in the country made it impossible to deploy a mission, as the minimal conditions were clearly lacking. Furthermore, the Guinean authorities did not actively send any invitation to the EU for an election observation,” said the EPP deputy.

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coronavirus

Update: Co-operation under the microscope in COVID-19 crisis – EAPM EU Presidency Conference report available

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As coronavirus infections soar across the planet, and the death toll rises everywhere, not least in Europe, many are asking why European Union member states were so disconnected from each other strategy-wise, and what the EU can do about improving co-ordination this second time round, writes European Alliance for Personalised Medicine (EAPM) Executive Director Denis Horgan. 

Well, given that health care is a jealously guarded member state competence, locking-down the answer isn’t easy, and never has been. But that doesn’t help Europe’s citizenry, given that COVID-19 is no respecter of borders and national sovereignty. 

This was one of a myriad discussion items discussed in our recent virtual Presidency Conference entitled ‘Ensuring access to innovation and data-rich biomarker space to speed better quality of care for citizens’. You can read the report here.

As highlighted during the Presidency Conference, there is potential future promise in the European policy context, with the legislative and policy initiatives currently on the EU agenda – most recently – the declaration of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in favour of European Health Union which was discussed during the conference. 

EAPM has always argued for more EU-wide co-operation and coordination in health care, and the current crisis has only made that need more obvious. 

Indeed, for the best part of a decade,  the Alliance has been calling for policies to tackle diseases of many different types - not least cancer - through new science and personalised healthcare, with the backing of many MEPs.

It is apt that throughout the topic-specific discussions of the Presidency Conference, the broader themes that emerged most insistently were collaboration and communication, since these have been the hallmarks of EAPM’s activity since its initiation. 

EAPM is by definition a collaborative exercise, bringing together the broadest range of stakeholders – as this conference again demonstrated. And communication has been at the heart of EAPM’s activity, since its role is not just as a thinktank for refining ideas, but as a vehicle for transmitting those ideas from the world of healthcare to the broader world of policy, where the decisions are made that ultimately shape the way health is delivered. 

Principal recommendations 

Although there was no formal process of agreeing recommendations at the meeting, the following are among the recurring recommendations from the discussions. 

  • Inequalities in access to testing and treatment across Europe must be addressed

  • Adequate data infrastructure and processing capacity must be available.

  • Real-world evidence must be developed and acceptance criteria agreed with regulators, HTA agencies and payers.

  • Greater flexibility in regulatory requirements is needed to accommodate evaluation of products destined for small populations.

  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration must be developed to agree research priorities, standards and quality assurance of testing, and evaluation criteria for testing and treatments.

  • Trust must be developed among citizens about the security and possible  use of their data.

  • Communication must be developed by healthcare stakeholders to persuade policymakers to effect constructive change.  

The link to the report is available here.

1 million genome meeting on 21 October

Registration is still very much open for the B1MG meeting on 21 October. The aim of the the 1 million Genome Project is to support the connection of national genomics and data infrastructures, co-ordinate the harmonization of the ethical and legal framework for sharing data of high privacy sensitivity, and give practical guidance for the pan-European coordination of implementing genomic technologies in national and European health-care systems. 

Thus, the B1MG is a means to bring the different stakeholders together on Oct 21st so as to act as a catalyst to provide a benchmark approach for alignment of complex, fractionated health-care provisions into health-care systems.

Register here and read the full agenda here.

Have the best week possible, and keep safe.

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Brexit

We’re disappointed by EU but a deal can be done, says Raab

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Britain is disappointed by the European Union’s demand that London give more concessions to secure a trade deal but a deal is close and can be done, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday (16 October), write Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle.

“We are disappointed and surprised by the outcome of the European Council,” Raab told Sky News.

“We’ve been told that it must be the UK that makes all of the compromises in the days ahead, that can’t be right in a negotiation, so we’re surprised by that but the prime minister will be saying more on this later today.”

“Having said that, we are close,” Raab said of a deal. “With goodwill on both sides we can get there.”

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