Sant takes umbrage at report naming and shaming Malta over EPPO delay

Labour MEP Alfred Sant takes exception to European Parliament report that shames Malta over delay in appointment of its national prosecutor to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

MEP Alfred Sant has taken exception to a European Parliament report that named and shamed Malta over its delay in nominating a national prosecutor to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and over rule of law concerns.

For starters, the report “highlights with great concern Malta’s failure to nominate three suitable candidates for the College of European Prosecutors, thereby delaying completion of the college”.

The comment drew the ire of Sant, a former prime minister, who said he “strongly opposed” the manner by which parts of the resolution in the European Parliament were crafted. 

“In an attempt to shame Malta, it is named as having failed to appoint its prosecutor to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.”

The report was drawn up by former Italian magistrate, Socialist and Democrat MEP Caterina Chinnici.

Malta had eventually appointed former Senior Police Inspector Yvonne Farrugia to the role, in July of last year, but did so after years of haggling over the EPPO’s very establishment, along with other states who had originally opposed the concept, since 2013.

The EPPO is an independent and decentralised prosecution office of the European Union. It holds the competence to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption or serious cross-border VAT fraud.

In a harsh statement to the last week’s European Parliament plenary session, Sant said, “The drafters knew that the delay in naming a prosecutor was due to the inability to find a suitable appointee following the timely launch of a call for applications, which was then rerun. They knew that the problem had been finally solved. 

“Trying to project this as a deliberate act that needed to be named and shamed is unworthy of this institution and I want to register my protest against such a distorted way of conducting the business of this House.”

He however expressed his full support to the report’s underlying principles on the protection of the EU's financial interests which, he said, EU member states and the European Commission have a shared responsibility to protect. 

In the end, Sant abstained from the vote rather than voting against the resolution, explaining that he would have voted against the resolution “but this could again have been wilfully misinterpreted as a vote against the principles that must be followed to protect the EU’s financial interests.”

Fellow Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba, Josianne Cutajar and Cyrus Engerer also abstained from the vote while Nationalist MEPs David Casa and Roberta Metsola voted in its favour. It was passed through the EP by a vote of 534 in favour, 34 against and with 124 abstentions.

Sant added in his plenary address that, “Fighting corruption can only be achieved through transparency and effective anti-fraud mechanisms, especially when it comes to infrastructure works financed by EU funds.”

Malta came up for a second mention, where the report noted the EP is, “...very concerned by the findings of the 2020 Rule of Law Report, which highlights concerns about the effectiveness of the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of corruption cases, including high-level corruption cases in several Member States, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Malta and Slovakia.”

Along such lines, the report, “insists that high-level corruption must be systematically pursued with consistent and resolute action to launch criminal investigations and prosecute corruption cases involving high-level officials or their immediate circle when serious allegations arise.”

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

More in Ewropej