Rule of Law in Malta

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

yellow
The reform of the system of appointments of judges and magistrates was adopted in July 2020.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Parliament also adopted the reform as regards the procedure for dismissal of judges and magistrates
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The level of perceived judicial independence is around average.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A fully separate Prosecution Service is being set up.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A high number of specialised tribunals operate in different areas.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Quality

yellow
Some measures to improve the quality of the justice system have been adopted.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The system of allocation of cases is under review.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Efficiency

red
The duration of court proceedings remains among the longest in the EU.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

yellow
Malta scores 54/100 in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and ranks 14th in the EU and 50th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Changes have been adopted as regards the Permanent Commission Against Corruption (PCAC) addressing structural weaknesses, and reducing the Prime Minister’s role in appointing its members.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Prevention

yellow
The Protection of the Whistleblower Act came into force in 2013.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Proposals have been tabled as regards the appointment of persons exercising top executive functions.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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A public consultation was launched with a view to introducing lobbying regulation, which is currently missing.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Repressive measures

yellow
The treatment of high-level corruption cases presents shortcomings.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The selection and the appointment process of the Police Commissioner has been reformed, an issue also highlighted by the Venice Commission in its December 2018 Opinion.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The resources and capacity of the Economic Crime Unit of the Police have been increased.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life raised concerns about conflicts of interests of members of Parliament.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

yellow
The independence of the Broadcasting Authority is enshrined in the Constitution.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The members of the Broadcasting Authority are appointed by the President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister given after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) was founded in 1989 as an association grouping together media practitioners.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Transparency of Media

red
The Broadcasting Authority gathers ownership information of media outlets, but there are no obligations to make this easily accessible to the public.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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There is no legal framework regulating state advertising.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Journalists' Protection

yellow
The Freedom of Information Act establishes the legal framework for access to information held by public authorities.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A public inquiry led by a former judge is ongoing regarding the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The impact of the assassination of Malta’s foremost investigative journalist continues to be felt in Malta.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
A constitutional reform of the election procedure of the President of Malta was adopted.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Challenges remain as regards the limited use of evidence-based instruments and effectiveness of public consultations in the law-making process.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Measures to face the pandemic were adopted under the State of Public Health Emergency.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

green
Civil society organisations are playing an increasing role in the public debate.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Accessibility

yellow
A reflection process on the role of Parliament has also been initiated.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Judgments of the Constitutional Court do not have erga omnes effect.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Independent Authorities

green
A constitutional reform to strengthen the role of the Ombudsman has also been approved, while a proposal to establish a human rights institution is under discussion in Parliament.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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A constitutional reform concerning the appointments to certain independent commissions has been tabled to Parliament.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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