VALLETTA, MALTA - The head of the European Union's mission to Malta on Tuesday expressed doubts about the government's credibility after meeting with the embattled prime minister of the Mediterranean island nation.
With protesters shouting in the background, European lawmaker Sophia in `t Veld said outside the prime minister's office that “it is difficult to see how credibility of the office can be upheld.”
The EU delegation launched the mission to the small EU nation after an investigation into the 2017 car bomb killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a leading investigative journalist, implicated Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's chief of staff. Keith Schembri resigned from office and denies any involvement.
Police have arrested a prominent businessman as the suspected mastermind. Yorgen Fenech reportedly linked Schembri to the killing.
The delegation chief's comments raised pressure on Muscat, whose pledge to resign in January has done little to placate thousands of protesters gathering in the capital each night to demand he step down immediately.
“In politics it is about trust. It is about the integrity of office. This is not about formalities,” in `t Veld, a Dutch lawmaker, said as a handful of anti-government protesters shouted in the background. “We have made it very clear that there is a problem. This is not just between the prime minister and the Maltese people. It is between Malta and the European Union.”
She said trust between the EU and Malta “has been very seriously damaged,” and that Muscat did little to allay concerns.
“I am not coming out of this meeting with more confidence, I have to say,” in `t Veld said.
A Maltese member of the delegation, Roberta Metsola, said that Muscat, when asked, said he felt betrayed by his former chief of staff.
The delegation will also meet during the 1 ½-day mission with police, the attorney general, journalists, Europol, civil society and family members of Caruana Galizia.
The 53-year-old journalist, who had built a strong following for her work investigating corruption at the highest levels of Malta politics and economy, was slain in a car bomb in October 2017.
While three men are being held pending a trial on charges of carrying out the attack, it took more than two years to identify anyone behind the killing.