The EU council met this week to discuss climate change and the bloc’s budget. But delegations across the EU could not resist bringing up the upheaval in Malta.
The country is facing a political crisis after investigations into the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia revealed close connections between suspects of the case and the Office of the Prime Minister.
EU heads of state including Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat met in Brussels on Thursday and Friday just as British voters went to the polls, and discussions about Brexit played a major part in the meeting agenda hours after Boris Johnson’s Conservatives electoral victory.
Despite the Maltese political crisis not being on the official agenda, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte reportedly said that if Dr Muscat would be asked about the situation if he does not bring it up himself. Politico said that journalists were on the lookout to see who was next to Dr Muscat during the EU council’s family photo.
“He’s seen as a bit of a pariah,” Politico reported.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Tytti Tuppurainen said the situation needed to be analysed closely. Malta needed to give an explanation, she said.
She mentioned Poland and Hungary, which both faced Article 7 proceedings. Described as the EU’s “nuclear button”, Article 7 triggers the EU’s most serious political sanctions and is used when a country risks breaching the bloc’s values.
Despite the concerns, EU Council President Charles Michel said the council did not discuss the matter because of ongoing inquiries.
Mr Michel said he did not want any political interference in an active case.
However, he did say he would be visiting the Caruana Galizia family and will go to Malta.
The Council met as the UK held its general election. Discussions about Brexit also played a major part in the meeting agenda, which ended just hours after Conservative leader Boris Johnson’s electoral victory.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned of the tight timing for securing a trade deal with Britain.
“The time frame ahead of us is very challenging,” von der Leyen said, following a discussion by EU leaders on the way forward after Brexit, now expected on January 31.
On the “first of February, we go to work,” she said.