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#Malta - MEPs conclude fact-finding visit to assess #CaruanaGalizia murder inquiry

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The delegation of MEPs, led by Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew Europe, NL), met the Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat and other government members, the police, judicial authorities, the opposition, representatives of civil society and journalists, as well as members of the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, among others. This is the third time an EP delegation has visited Malta to inquire into the murder of Caruana Galizia and the state of the rule of law.

MEPs remain unconvinced that Prime Minister Muscat has acted judiciously in the last few weeks, including in his decision to remain in office until mid-January. Throughout their meetings, especially with the Prime Minister, they stressed that the negative perceptions of the government’s actions, as well as the falling trust and credibility, were not being addressed. They underlined that it is of paramount importance that the investigations continue without undue interference and that justice is served. In this regard, the delegation stressed that the next 40 days will be crucial, also for trust in the integrity of the investigation. MEPs remain concerned that, with Prime Minister Muscat in place, that integrity is at risk.

Following a meeting with high-ranking police officials and investigators, MEPs acknowledged the progress in investigating the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while recognising that the case is far from being closed. They also expressed their worry that the investigations into related money laundering and corruption cases have not advanced, especially with regard to Keith Schembri, the former Chief of Staff of Prime Minister Muscat, and Konrad Mizzi, the former Tourism Minister. The delegation reiterated that Europol needs to be closely involved in all aspects of the investigation.

Finally, MEPs noted that a reform process is underway addressing amongst other things, the controversial constitutional role of the Attorney General and the current system of judicial appointments. However, they underlined that persistent threats to the rule of law in Malta cannot be precluded. In this regard, MEPs welcomed Commission Vice-President Jourová’s comments, stating that Malta’s failure to enact judicial reforms could serve as a basis for triggering an Article 7 procedure. They called on the European Commission to start a dialogue with Malta in the rule of law framework immediately.

Speaking at the end of the delegation’s visit, Ms in ‘t Veld said: “We came to Malta with deep concerns, and we leave not reassured. The rule of law under pressure, impunity for crimes, widespread corruption, journalists intimidated and harassed, the right of assembly thwarted and politics descended into toxic bipartisanism. Malta is a part of Europe; what affects Malta, affects Europe. Europe must monitor this situation closely, and press for far-reaching constitutional reforms. We stand by the people of Malta, who deserve clean government and officials with integrity.”

The delegation comprised the following MEPs:

A press conference took place at the end of the mission, available here. The video will also be available later in EbS+, together with other audiovisual material from the mission.

Background

Following visits to Malta and Slovakia in the aftermath of the murders of the Maltese blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, and the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, the Civil Liberties Committee set up its Rule of Law Monitoring Group in June 2018. Having looked into concerns about the progress of the investigations, as well as allegations of harassment, intimidation, corruption and fraud, the final report identified serious shortcomings in the rule of law.

In the 9th parliamentary term, the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group will monitor and report on relevant issues across all member states until 31 December 2021. Newly arising issues can be added to the DRFMG scope if Members representing a committee majority agree.

The Monitoring Group continues to review the situation in Malta. In its latest meeting on 28 November, the DRFMG discussed the latest developments in Malta and received an update from Europol regarding the support given by the EU Agency. It reiterates its resolution from March this year, in particular the need for full clarity and for justice to be done in the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder case.

Belgium

Belgian artist's 'portable oasis' creates COVID-free bubble for one

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When governments around Europe told people to create a "bubble" to limit their social contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic, this was probably not what they had in mind, write Bart Biesemans and Clement Rossignol.

Alain Verschueren, a Belgian artist and social worker, has been strolling through the capital Brussels wearing a "portable oasis" - a plexiglass mini-greenhouse which rests on his shoulders, cocooning him in a bubble of air purified by the aromatic plants inside.

Verschueren, 61, developed the idea 15 years ago, inspired by the lush oases in Tunisia where he had previously worked. In a city where face coverings are mandatory to curb the spread of COVID-19, his invention has gained a new lease of life.

"It was about creating a bubble in which I could lock myself in, to cut myself off a world that I found too dull, too noisy or smelly," Verschueren said, adding that he has asthma and finds breathing within his contraption more comfortable than wearing a facemask.

Belgian artist Alain Verschueren wears his "Portable Oasis" while performing in a street, saying he wanted to be in his bubble in the middle of the city, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels, Belgium April 16, 2021. Picture taken April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman
Belgian artist Alain Verschueren wears his "Portable Oasis" while performing in a street, saying he wanted to be in his bubble in the middle of the city, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels, Belgium April 16, 2021. Picture taken April 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Belgian artist Alain Verschueren wears his "Portable Oasis" while performing in a street, saying he wanted to be in his bubble in the middle of the city, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brussels, Belgium 16 April. REUTERS/Yves Herman

"As time went by, I noticed that people were coming up to me and talking to me. This isolation became much more a way of connecting," he said.

Onlookers in Brussels appeared amused and confused by the man wandering between the shops - mostly closed due to COVID-19 restrictions - encased in a pod of thyme, rosemary and lavender plants.

"Is it a greenhouse? Is it for the bees? Is it for the plants? We don't know, but it's a good idea," Charlie Elkiess, a retired jeweller, told Reuters.

Verschueren said he hoped to encourage people to take better care of the environment, to reduce the need to protect ourselves from air and noise pollution.

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EU

Indo-Pacific: Council adopts conclusions on EU strategy for co-operation

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The Council approved conclusions on an EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, setting out the EU’s intention to reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in this region of prime strategic importance for EU interests. The aim is to contribute to regional stability, security, prosperity and sustainable development, at a time of rising challenges and tensions in the region.

The renewed EU commitment to the Indo-Pacific, a region spanning from the east coast of Africa to the Pacific island states, will have a long-term focus and will be based on upholding democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law.

Current dynamics in the Indo-Pacific have given rise to intense geopolitical competition adding to increasing tensions on trade and supply chains as well as in technological, political and security areas. Human rights are also being challenged. These developments increasingly threaten the stability and security of the region and beyond, directly impacting on the EU’s interests.

Consequently, the EU’s approach and engagement will look to foster a rules-based international order, a level playing field, as well as an open and fair environment for trade and investment, reciprocity, the strengthening of resilience, tackling climate change and supporting connectivity with the EU. Free and open maritime supply routes in full compliance with international law remain crucial. The EU will look to work together with its partners in the Indo-Pacific on these issues of common interest.  

The EU will continue to develop partnerships in the areas of security and defence, including to address maritime security, malicious cyber activities, disinformation, emerging technologies, terrorism, and organized crime.

The EU and its regional partners will also work together in order to mitigate the economic and human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and work towards ensuring an inclusive and sustainable socio-economic recovery.

The Council tasked the High Representative and the Commission with putting forward a Joint Communication on co-operation in the Indo-Pacific by September 2021.

The conclusions were adopted by the Council by written procedure.

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EU

Conference on the Future of Europe: Make your voice heard

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Share your views on the EU, organize events across Europe and discuss with others through the new digital platform on the Conference on the Future of Europe, EU affairs.

Launched on 19 April, the platform is the multilingual hub of the Conference on the Future of Europe that will allow people to get involved and suggest what changes need to take place in the EU. Europeans will also be able to see what others propose, comment on them and endorse ideas.

The EU institutions have committed to listening to what people say and to following up on the recommendations made. The Conference is expected to reach conclusions by the spring of 2022.

How do you take part?

Choose a topic that interests you. It could be anything from climate change to digital issues or EU democracy. If you don’t see a category with your topic, share your opinion in the Other Ideas category.

Once you are in a specific category, you can read the introduction and explore some useful links. On the Ideas tab, you can share your views and find the ideas of others. Join the discussion by leaving a comment, or vote for ideas you like so that more people can find them.

You can submit your comment in any of the EU's official 24 languages. All comments can be translated automatically in any of the other languages.

Under the Events tab, you can explore events organised online or near you, register for an event or prepare your own.

The platform fully respects users’ privacy and EU data protection rules.

What happens when you submit an opinion?

The submitted opinions and the debate they initiate will be the basis for discussions in citizens’ panels that will be organised across the EU at regional, national and European level. These panels will include people from different backgrounds so that they can be representative of the whole population of the EU.

The conclusions of the different panels will be then presented at a plenary session of the Conference, which will bring together citizens, representatives of EU institutions and national parliaments.

Join the discussion on social media about the Conference with the hashtag #TheFutureIsYours.

Conference on the Future of Europe 

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