Honourable members, it's been ten days since the world witnessed Daphne Caruana Galizia's funeral in Malta. A nation in mourning; we all saw it.
The Commission condemned this brutal assassination in the strongest words possible. The rights of a journalist and a blogger to investigate, ask uncomfortable questions and to report effectively, is at the heart of our values and needs to be guaranteed at all times. There can be no free and democratic societies without free media.
The Commission takes the view that ensuring an independent and thorough investigation of the facts and bringing those responsible to justice must be the top priority for the Maltese government. The Maltese authorities and institutions must deliver on their clear commitment to do everything in their power to ensure that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
More generally, Malta needs to show to Europe and indeed the world that its rules and regulations are healthy and robust. This is why it is important that the Maltese government has indicated that the investigation and prosecution should be allowed to run their full course, regardless of the consequences. And I want to add that at every occasion I have to talk to members of the Maltese government, I make this point, and it is acknowledged by them that they will do so, and that they will commit to that.
This also includes making sure that the rules that we agreed at European level are implemented on the ground. The fight against money laundering for instance is a key priority for the European Commission in this respect.
With regard to the issue of money laundering in Malta, the Commission has conducted a fact-finding exercise and an analysis. The guiding principle was to identify quality and reliable data. The facts as they resulted from our analysis – and let me stress this - raise no general concerns on Malta's overall compliance. However, improvement could be made on various levels. In this context the Commission has recently sent a letter to the Maltese authorities regarding follow-up investigations to recommendations after the Maltese Financial Intelligence and Analysis Unit (FIAU) report. And we are now carefully studying their comprehensive reply.
As part of our efforts in the fight against money laundering, moreover, we are making sure that all Member States, including Malta, adopt the necessary provisions to transpose the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The Commission decision on infringements proceedings against those Member States which have not yet notified their national transposition laws is imminent. We do encourage those Member States to adopt the necessary rules now without further delay.
The Commission regularly collects data on the functioning of the judicial systems of all Member States in the EU justice scoreboard and we are monitoring corruption in Member States as part of the European Semester.
And the Commission agrees with Parliament that we need to improve the protection of whistle-blowers in the whole EU.
The revision of the 4th Anti-money laundering directive, currently under negotiation between Parliament and Council, will enhance the powers of the competent authorities to prevent and fight money laundering. I hope that this legislation will be adopted soon.
And, finally, the Commission encourages Malta to swiftly join the European Public Prosecutor's Office. This would send a strong positive signal of Malta’s commitment to work actively together in the area of freedom, security and justice.
In conclusion, Madam President, let me say that every time I have the occasion to meet with Maltese authorities – I met with Minister for European Affairs and Equality Ms Dalli and Minister of Justice and Culture Mr Bonnici last week– they have clearly expressed their determination to do whatever is necessary to make sure that these things are implemented to the full, and also to make sure that those responsible for this atrocious crime are brought to justice. And I do have to say that the commitment of the Maltese government in this, I think, was made very clear to all its partners in Europe. Thank you very much, Madam President.