State of the EU: Von der Leyen praises Malta’s rule of law reforms

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen gives her State of the Union address in the European Parliament

Annual State of the European Union address (photo: Denis Lomme/European Parliament)
Annual State of the European Union address (photo: Denis Lomme/European Parliament)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Malta for its rule of law reforms during Wednesday morning's annual State of the European Union address. 

During her address, she outlined developments over the past year and the way ahead for the union. She also referenced Daphne Caruana Galizia and called for greater protection for journalists. 

She said it was important to protect democracy and enshrine judgments handed down by the European Court of Justice as it was part of Europe’s heritage.

“Our values are guaranteed by legal order. The protection of the rule of law is not just an aim, but daily hard work and improvement,” she said.

She praised judicial reforms in Malta and the work being done in Slovakia to tackle corruption saying it was of great concern.

Over the past 22 months, Malta introduced a new method to appoint members of the judiciary that removed government interference. Other changes include new methods to appoint the President and the police commissioner.

In reaction to von der Leyen's address, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis said he remained keen to reform Malta's justice system further to ensure it was effective and efficient. 

Tribute to slain journalists

Von der Leyen also paid tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia and other journalists killed in Europe. She said the commission would be introducing a media protection law to protect journalists.

“Journalists are under attack for doing their job… Some are threatened, others are beaten up, and tragically some like Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak are murdered,” she said.

Von der Leyen said that while the situations may be different, both journalists stood for the right to information and died to protect transparency.

Climate change and migration

She also shared with MEPs her vision for responding to the EU's challenges, including the economic recovery, the fight against climate change, the digitalisation agenda and the Conference on the Future of Europe.  

Von der Leyen said that it was important that vaccination rates in Europe continue to rise. “We need to do everything possible to make sure this doesn’t turn into a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

She also said that it was also time for the parliament to approve a European migration management policy.

The address launched a debate in the European Parliament on the work of the commission.

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola, a Vice President of the EP, presided over the debate after filling in for President David Sassoli, who could not attend because he fell ill.

EPP wants new trade deal with the US

Addressing the parliament, European People's Party leader Manfred Weber called for a new trade agreement with the US. He said that the bloc should negotiate sectorial deals in areas like mobility, mechanical engineering and the digital economy.

The EPP leader also said there needed to be more action taken regarding health, citing that BioNTech, Europe was one of the most important developers of the coronavirus vaccines.

Weber said he wanted to see more rapid development in other search sectors, especially when it came to cancer.

S&D say social measures are too modest

Socialist & Democrats group leader Iratxe García Pérez praised the commission for its advances in green issues over the past year, such as the Fit For 55 package on emissions reduction.

However, García Pérez said that the social measures that went along with this green transition were too modest, adding that it was crucial to reinforce the Social Climate Fund.

She also said that not enough had been done and that the pandemic had aggravated the inequalities in an unfair economic system. 

Greens want the commission to speed up decarbonisation plans

Greens co-leader Philippe Lamberts said that von der Leyen should speed up the EU's decarbonisation plans.

Lamberts also criticised the commission for not meeting its geopolitical goals, citing that recent Moscow, Beijing, and Afghanistan events have shown Europeans' powerlessness.

He also admonished member states for not taking in enough Afghan refugees. 

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.

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