The Brief – A decisive presser

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

If journalists are silenced, there is no democracy. Killing journalists is nothing but a mafia show of force.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered on 16 October 2017. A powerful explosion left her leased Peugeot 108 scattered in several pieces across fields nearby her home in Bidnija, a hamlet in the northern region of Malta.

Her remains were found by her son Matthew, 80 metres away from the blast site. He wrote on Facebook “I looked down and there were my mother’s body parts all around me”.

Daphne was operating a blog called “Running Commentary”.

I knew this blog very well. I was advised several years ago to get information about Malta from her blog, which was way better than the official media on the island.

Everybody read her blog in Malta, which probably also means other sources of information weren’t so good. Nothing can replace Daphne – and her blog.

If you open her blog today, you will find it frozen on the day Daphne died, with a text published less than half an hour before the explosion. The title of the last post is “That crook Schembri was in court today, pleading that he is not a crook”.

Well, Keith Schembri, a top aide to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, is very much in the spotlight today.

Tycoon Yorgen Fenech was arrested as he tried to leave Malta on his yacht and charged on Sunday with complicity in Daphne’s murder. But Fenech claimed that Schembri was the “real mastermind” behind the killing, according to police sources.

Schembri resigned last week, together with Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. Daphne had written that Schembri and Mizzi were involved in corruption, claims both men have denied.

Schembri was then arrested last week, interrogated for two days and released with no charges filed, fuelling accusations of a cover-up.

This is the essence of the problem.

In Malta, it is very easy to evade justice. The European Parliament has produced several reports pointing to serious problems with law enforcement, which could be called “systemic”.

This basically means that Malta qualifies, together with Poland and Hungary, for the Article 7 procedure.

Věra Jourová, the Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency, said at the FT ETNO summit that Malta’s failure to put in place reforms of the prosecutor system, so that corruption cases could be investigated and prosecuted, could serve as a basis for triggering Article 7.

Malta’s case is looming large as the von der Leyen Commission takes over. The new Commission chief will face the Brussels press tomorrow.

Many of the questions will be about Malta. Von der Leyen should encourage Jourová to do her job. Until now, Juncker had reportedly been holding her back.

The Roundup

By Sam Morgan

In what is proving to be a difficult few days for socialist premiers, Finland’s prime minister resigned after members of his ruling coalition lost confidence in his leadership. A new PM should be appointed next week, with transport minister Sanna Marin in pole position.

Marin had to leave today’s telecommunications council early, giving Croatia an early taste of what chairing member state discussions will be like. Commissioner Thierry Breton said at the meeting that the Berlaymont would present a revamped ePrivacy proposal.

There were also conclusions on 5G from the meeting. Check out this special edition of The Capitals that breaks down the situation across Europe.

In London, Donald Trump hit back at Emmanuel Macron’s NATO “brain-death” comments. The US president said that France needs the Alliance more than any other member. His Polish counterpart hopes for a solution to Turkey’s threat to block defence plans in the east.

France’s digital tax has provoked the ire of the US but the European Commission wants to resolve the dispute “amicably”.  But Trump’s administration is also threatening to increase tariffs on Airbus.

The European Central Bank will review its mandate “with an open mind“, according to the institution’s new chief, Christine Lagarde. Italy’s former finance minister, Domenico Siniscalco believes that Paolo Gentiloni’s oversight of the SDGs will prove decisive.

Benjamin Fox reports on how EU-Africa relations are not equal and how Ursula von der Leyen will have to ramp up efforts. She kicks off that quest later this week when she heads to Ethiopia to meet African Union leaders.

Austria is on course to be the first EU country to ban glyphosate, the controversial weedkiller. However, a legal dispute between Vienna and the Commission could yet derail it.

And in this week’s Transport Brief, you’ll find European on the moon, news about Berlin’s seemingly-doomed new airport and a grisly meeting between a boar and a high-speed train.

Look out for…

Second day of NATO summit in London, COP25 continues in Madrid and EU Space Week begins in Helsinki.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Sam Morgan]

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